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HARVARD 

COLLEGE 
LIBRARY 




HARVARD 

COLLEGE 
LIBRARY 



.--^v 



<^ximtn JLi\)xaxv 



No. 8 



THE CUCHULLIN SAGA 



%\tt (Stimm Hibrarp. 

I. GEORGIAN FOLK TALES. Translated by Marjory Wardrop. 

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Aii rights reserved 



The Cuchullin Saga 

in Irish Literature 

Being a Collection of Stories 
relating to the Hero 

CUCHULLIN 

Translated from the Irish 
by various Scholars : Com- 
piled and Edited with 
Introduction and Notes, by 

Eleanor Hull 



London : 

Published by David Nutt in the Strand 

1898 




'' ' v-^ 



Ce\-i- \\\S.5 










' 



Edinburgh : T. «nd A. CoMITA»t», Primer. »o H«r MiO«»y 



TO THB FRIBNDS 

WHO 
HAVE HBLPBD MB 



CONTENTS 

Map to illustrate the Saga. 
Introduction— 

'AGS 

(a) Literary qualities of the Saga . . xi 

{d) Historical aspect of the Saga .... 1 

(c) Mythology liv 

Tales— 

I. The Birth of Conachar, adapted from the trans- 
lation of Dr. Kuno Meyer .... i 
II. How Conachar gained the Kingship over Ulster, 

adapted from the translation of £. 0*Curry . 7 

III. The Origin of Cuchullin, from the French trans- 

lation of M. Louis Duvau . 13 

IV. Tragical Death of the Sons of Usnach, from 

the translations by Dr. Whitley Stokes and 

OTlanagan . .' .21 

V. The Wooing of Emer and Cuchullin's Education 

under Scathach, translated by Dr. Kuno 

Meyer 55 

VI. The Siege of Howth, translated by Dr, Whitley 

Stokes 85 

VII. The Debility of the Ultonian Warriors, from the 

German of Dr. Ernst Windisch • • • 95 

▼U 



viii THE CUCHULLIN SAGA 

rAGB 

VIII. The Appearance of the Morrigu to Cuchullin 
before the Tdin b6 Cuailgne, from the German 

of Dr. Ernst Windisch loi 

IX. The Tdin b6 Cuailgne, Analysis with Extracts by 

Standish Hayes O'Grady .... 109 
X. The Instruction of Cuchullin to a Prince, from 
the translations of Eugene O'Curry and 
M. D*Arbois de Jubainville .... 229 
XI. The Great Defeat on the Plain of Muirthemne 
before Cuchullin's Death, translated by Stan- 
dish Hayes O'Grady 235 

XII. The Tragical Death of Cuchullin, translated by 

Dr. Whitley Stokes . ... .251 

XIII. The Tragical Death of King Conachar, from the 

translation by Eugene O'Curry . . 265 

XIV. The Phantom Chariot of Cuchullin, from the 

translation by O'Beirne Crowe 273 

Additional Notes 289 

Appendices-— 

I. Chart of the Conachar-Cuchullin Saga. 
II. Outline of the Movements of the Hosts in the 

Tdin b6 Cuailgne 301 

III. Conspectus of the Gathering of Ulster at the Hill 

of Slane (Tdin IxS Cuailgne) .... 306 

Index 309 




i 



INTRODUCTION 



INTRODUCTION 

(a) Literary Qualities of the Saga 

A RECENT American essayist, Mr. Godkin, has said 
that *no country retains the hearty affection of its 
educated classes which does not feed their imagination.' 
Patriotism, that is to say, does not rest to any large 
degree upon a natural pride in the physical beauty of 
the country that gave us birth, nor yet on a legitimate 
satisfaction in its commercial or industrial prosperity; 
it rests upon what we may call the historic imagination. 
It connects itself with certain events in the past history 
of our country, or with occurrences, sometimes of a 
semi-legendary character, that have stamped themselves 
upon the mind of the nation in a series of vivid mental 
pictures, and have fostered a just pride in the deeds 
and epochs of their forefathers. 

Countries that have their history still to make, or 
that have risen rapidly to greatness by colonisation 
from outside, without any background of romantic 
legend or heroic action, are lacking in the first elements 
that call a pure and elevated patriotism into existence. 
The memory of great deeds ; the slow growth of ideas, 
expressed either in literature or in the constitution of 
the country ; the mysterious and always attractive 
twilight of romance, out of which a nation has 

xl 



xii THE CUCHULLIN SAGA 

emerged into the broad daylight of historic life: all 
these are wanting. The consciousness of a greatness 
rooted firmly in the past is gone. 

The history and the literature of Ireland should, 
perhaps in a greater degree than that of any other 
country, feed and stimulate the love of her inhabitants. 
Her long and varied and pitiful story should draw to 
her the affection of her people ; while of the imaginative 
creations of poet and romanticist she has an almost 
unequalled wealth. There is hardly a bay, a plain, or 
a hill in Ireland around which romance, pagan or 
Christian, has not woven some tale or legend. It 
was, indeed, a special pleasure of the early writers to 
throw across each spot the halo of invention. Many 
of the longer pieces of ancient Gaelic literature are 
composed entirely of the local traditions belonging to 
special districts. Such are the 'Colloquy with the 
Ancients ' and * The Dinnsenchas ' tracts, which may be 
compared with * Kilhwch and Olwen * in Welsh litera- 
ture ; but even apart from these geographical collections 
of tales, there is no country in the world that has pre- 
served so many legends connected with special places as 
Ireland has done. The tradition of these tales is fast 
being lost among the people ; wherever politics and the 
newspaper enter, folklore dies out: naturally, too, 
wherever the English tongue has superseded the older 
speech in which the tales were handed down, their 
memory falls away. And as the recollection of the 
great names and great deeds of her ancestors fades into 
a faint tradition, patriotism sinks into a mere pass-word 
of demagogues ; as the old tales dwindle into folklore 
and are gradually forgotten, the light of fantasy is lost 
from the hills and plains of Ireland. To the traveller 



INTRODUCTION xiii 

in Ireland, the imaginative loss is grievous ; to the 
Irish man and woman it is irreparable. 

The Sagas of Ireland, though they have not as yet 
taken their natural place beside the Epics of the 
Nibelungen, of Charlemagne, or of Arthur, will bear com- 
parison in their scope and originality with any of these, 
and will add to them, moreover, some new elements. 

The fact that Irish is, to a large extent, a dead 
language has invested the literature enshrined in it 
with a lively interest for scholars. The old literature 
of Ireland is being rediscovered, and a host of philo- 
logists are devoting their best endeavours to its eluci- 
dation. The moment is a critical one. Up to the 
present, with very few exceptions, the interest which 
it has inspired is purely linguistic and comparative. 
Antiquarians and philologists have used the material 
as a repository of ancient customs and a battlefield 
for linguistic contests. The time is fast approaching, 
however, when it must be considered in a quite different 
aspect — namely, as pure literature. The Sagas of / 
Ireland must be placed beside the Sagas of the North \ 
and the epics of mediaeval Europe, and their qualities 
and defects weighed together. Very interesting results 
are likely to be obtained, and much light will probably 
be thrown thereby on the literary connection of Ireland 
with other countries. 

The isolation of Ireland from the great movements 
of European thought has been too much insisted 
upon. Although Ireland escaped the domination of 
Rome during the period of her early literary activity, 
and thus her literature remains as an almost soli- 
tary example of a Western culture developing along 
native lines and unchanged by Latin influence, yet at 



xiv THE CUCHULLIN SAGA 

the later period, during which her mediaeval bardic 
output was being gathered together and written down, 
Ireland, so far from occupying an isolated position, was 
in intimate relationship, not only with England, but 
with Northern, Westiern, and Central Europe. Her 
intellectual intercourse extended, not to the schools 
of England, France, and Italy only, but, through her 
monasteries, to Germany, Switzerland, and Austria, 
and a constant intercommunication was kept up be- 
tween these foreign establishments and the mother 
country. In all these countries we find to-day traces 
of Irish learning and Irish art. Even Spain shows 
signs of Irish influence, while the long centuries of 
association with Scandinavia left deep traces upon the 
national life and the national literature of both countries. 
It was during this epoch of great outward activity and 
movement towards foreign countries that we may 
' surmise the great mass of Irish pagan romance to have 
undergone the process of moulding into its final form, 
and it is impossible to suppose that some modifications 
were not introduced into it from its contact with 
foreign romance and foreign methods of thought. 
These modifications, though comparatively slight, have 
to be taken into account in any examination of Irish 
pagan romance, and the frequency or rarity with which 
we meet with ideas foreign to the Irish mind and 
imagination, may help to determine both the age of 
the particular version of any tale we are examining, 
and the measure of its popularity. Those stories that 
were universal favorites, and therefore frequently re- 
peated, will naturally show a greater assimilation of 
foreign ideas than those which fell out of popular 
favour. It is to these latter tales that we must look to 



INTRODUCTION xv 

find the Irish imagination in its pure and native form, 
untouched by outside influences. _. 

Equally important is it for us to remember that J 
though most of the tales of the Cuchullin Saga, if not\ 
all of them, bear marks of a pr e-Ch ristian origin, yet 1 
they come down to us transcribed by monkish hands 1 
and preserved in monasticjibraries. The early monas- f 
teries were the storehouses of the literary life of the 
nation ; monks and saints were the copyists and 
compilers. The Leabhar na hUidhre, or * Book of the 
Dun Cow' (so called from the parchment on which 
it was inscribed), the oldest existing book in which 
tales of the Cuchullin Saga have been preserved, was 
begun and partly, at least, arranged and written out 
by a religious of the monastery or * family ' of Clon- 
macnois. The Book of Leinster was transcribed by 
Finn mac Gorman, Bishop of Kildare. It is of immense 
interest to And that while the monks naturally gave a 
large place in their work to the lives* of saints and 
to religious literature, they felt it their duty to preserve 
and transmit with equal care, not only the historical 
and genealogical records of their native country, but 
also the great body of pagan romance that they heard 
recited and sung around them. There appears to have 
been no moment of decisi ve J break between the bardic 
and Christian systems, and in all matters that concerned 
the literature and laws of their country, brehons and 
monks laboured side by side. The monks seem to 
have set themselves in many ways to carry on the 
system of the bards, and it appears certain that, so 
far from feeling any fanatic hatred against the old 
pagan romance literature, they desired to incorporate 
such of its ideas as they could assimilate with those of | 



\ 



\ 



11 



xvi THE CUCHULLIN SAGA 

Christianity into their own teaching. They did this 
consciously, in the sanie manner and of the same set 
purpose as that which led St Patrick to adopt the 
pagan festivals and associate them with Christian 
events. Thus we find that it is St. Ciaran, one of the 
most noted saints of Ireland, who, at the toipb of 
Fergus mac R6ich, writes down the epic of the TAin 
B6 Cuailgne; Mongan comes back 'from the flock- 
abounding Land of Promise* in the unseen world to 
converse with Colum Cille;* it is to St Patrick that 
Ossian details the adventures of his compeers; and, 
in every case, although the saint is represented as 
denouncing the fierceness and pagan beliefs of the old 
heroes, he listens with eagerness to the recital of their 
deeds. Once more, it is St Patrick who calls up 
before the pagan monarch of Tara the vision of 
Cuchullin in his chariot, and this for the express 
purpose of persuading King Laegaire of the truth 
of Christianity.' 

This frequent association of pagan and Christiaif 
personages and ideas is not without meaning ; it shows 
that not only no strong prejudice existed against the 
ancient literature, but, on the contrary, that a curiosity 
and an appetite was felt with regard to it ; and a desire 
was experienced, so far as was possible, to reconcile 
the two systems. For the finer among the Cuchul- 
lin stories and those of independent origin, such as 
the 'Voyage of Maelduin,* the 'Bruidhen d4 Derga,' 
etc, they seem to have had a regard that led to the 
careful preservation of them ; nor is there, in these tales, 

1 Vifyagg of Bran, Kuno Meyer and Alfred Nutt, vol. i., Grimm 
library (iv.). •^^ 'Colloquy of Columdlle,* printed in Ztitschrifi fiir 
Celt. Phil., ▼ol. ii. No. i. 



INTRODUCTION xvii 

any trace of the contentious wrangling between the 
opposed systems of belief that is found in many of the 
Ossianic poems. Such stories as that of the conjuring 
up of Cuchullin's chariot before Laegaire, to which we 
have referred above, point to a special reverence for the 
earlier hero, such as is not displayed towards Finn and 
his champions. 

Nevertheless, the passage of the legends through 
monkish hands was not without an effect upon the final 
form in which the talcs have come down to us ; clerical 
handling has denuded the old romances of some of their 
pagan characteristics, and has modified certain features 
inconsistent with the later teaching. Christianjnterpo- 
lations have been added, and, in some instances, pagan 
and Christian epochs have been synchronised. 

Bearing in mind these two causes of modification, the \ 
influence of foreign intercolirse and the influence of 
Christian redaction, the changes that have taken place 
in the tales of the Cuchullin cycle may roughly be ) 
Aassed as follows : first, changes due to deliberate in- { 
terpolation ; secondly, changes due to deliberate sup- ' 
pression ; thirdly, alterations brought about through the . 
ignorance or carelessness of copyists ; and finally, those ' 
that have arisen through the assimilation of foreign , 
ideas or through the desire to glorify the hero by com- ' 
parison with classical champions or the heroes of other j 
nations. 

In considering the variations due to deliberate inter- 
polation, it is well to be on our guard against the error 
of supposing that the longer form in which any story 
has come down to us is of necessity the latest Though 
in the larger number of instances it is undoubtedly the 
case that the story has been adorned and expanded by 

b 



xviii THE CUCHULLIN SAGA 

the poetic fancy of the bards through whose hands it 
has passed ; though frequently it has gathered accretions 
from foreign and classic sources, and though descrip- 
tions of dress and general appearance were likely to be 
lengthened as time went on, we have to set against all 
this the consideration that many of the tales, as we have 
them, are mere outlines, to be filled up by improvised 
description at the time of recitation. 

The bard, though he was prohibited under stringent 
regulations from altering the facts of a story ,^ was per- 
mitted to use his fancy in filling in the outline, and 
adding such details as appeared to him to enhance the 
beauty of the tale. A mere sketch of the incidents was, 
therefore, all that he needed to get by heart, and doubt- 
less some of these sketches have been preserved to us. 
If, for instance, we compare the version of the * Wooing 
of Emer' (Tochmarc Emire\ published in the Revue 
Celtique^ vol. xi. p. 442, with the fuller form of the 
story which we reproduce here, it will be seen that a 
number of incidents are merely suggested in the shorter 
recension, of which we get the full details in the longer 
form. To take an example. In the passage describing 
Cuchullin's journey across Alba to seek tuition from 
Scathach, we read, * Then he encountered some dread- 
ful beast like a lion, which fought with him, but did him 
no harm. And the foul play of the youths who laughed 
at him. On the fourth day the beast parted from him.' 
These abrupt phrases read like a memoria technica to 
remind the narrator of the outline of facts, which he 
was to fill up at the moment of recital. There is no 
explanation whatever of the laughter of the youths, 

* MacFirbU*! Book of GeneaU^i, Introduction. (Quoted O'Curry, 
MS. A/o/., pp. 220-221, and see p. 242.) 



INTRODUCTION xix 

though the scribe was evidently familiar with the cause. 
In the longer recension the passage is filled in thus : 
* While he was there, he beheld a terrible great beast 
like a lion coming towards him, which kept regarding 
him, but did not do him any harm. Whichever way 
he went, the beast went before him, and moreover it 
turned its side towards him (i>. inviting him to mount). 
Then he took a leap and was on its back. He did not 
guide it, but went wherever the beast carried him. 
Four days they went on this wise, until they came to 
the bounds of human habitation, and to an island where 
some lads were rowing on a small loch. The boys 
laughed at the unwonted sight of the savage beast doing 
service to man. Then Cuchullin leaped off, and the 
beast parted from him, and he bade it farewell.' It is 
evident that all these omitted details were present to 
the mind of the scribe. The opening of the story is 
entirely lost in the shorter version, which begins with 
some broken phrases that are quite incomprehensible as 
they stand, but which we learn from the longer story 
were the close of the explanation of the intentionally 
obscure and mystical conversation that took place be- 
tween Cuchullin and Emer, on the occasion of his visit 
to her father's fortress. If, as Professor Kuno Meyer, 
the translator of both these versions, points out, the 
shorter story is the older in point of language, and may 
be of pre-Scandinavian origin, it is yet certain that 
even at that age the whole story, including the quaint 
form of speech used by the lovers, and supposed by 
some to have been introduced from Scandinavia into 
Irish literature, was in existence also and familiar to 
the story-teller. 

While, therefore, it is probable that in numerous in- 



XX THE CUCHULLIN SAGA 

stances the simpler form in which a tale has come down 
to us is the older, we are by no means to take it for 
granted that this is always the case. When we meet 
with a tale given in a very condensed form, it is at least 
necessary to consider whether it may not have been 
transcribed merely in outline for the convenience of 
professional story-tellers. 

T he general ^t vle of the stories^elpnging to this Saga 
isterse, grave and balanced : they are singularlyTree 
troni liferary Glemishes. There are few redundancies 
of expression, and ther e is a strong sens e of poe tic 
fitness shown in their formand deveiopment The long 
adjectival descriptions, which are a feature of much Irish 

\ mediaeval writing, and which do not appear to be en- 
tirely confined to its later period, are rare in this cycle. 
From a literary point of view these tales rise high above 
the larger number of the stories of the Ossianic or Finn 
cycle ; their purpose is better defined, they possess a 
dignity not always to be found in the Ossianic literature. 
The Finn stories, again, are old ; the CuchuUin tales are 

j, archaic. The difference between paganism and Chris- 
tianity is more than a mere lapse of time ; it is the dif- 
ference between an extinct and a surviving civilisation. 
It has been unfortunate for the literary reputation of 
the old Gael that the Ossianic tales and not those of 
the Cuchullin Saga, or the fine old romances which, like 
the * Bruidhen dd Derga ' or the ' Voyage of Maelduin,' 
are independent of both, have been kept before the 
public as typical of the literary genius of ancient Ire- 
land. The Ossianic Legends, which were evidently 
more widely known in later times than those of the 
earlier cycles, have undergone large modifications and 
become thoroughly popularised ; few of them probably 



\ 



W 



INTRODUCTION xxi 

retain their original form. A large number of epi- 
sodes from the Cuchullin cycle have been introduced 
into them. 

The ousting of the earlier cycles from their place in 
the popular affection, has to a large extent had the 
effect of preserving the Cuchullin tales from those 
unconscious changes that grow up in the course of 
centuries of repetition and variation of sentiment and 
fashion ; those that were the least popular have retained 
all their barbaric wildness and splendour, untouched by 
mediaeval influence. Except in a few of the more 
favourite recitals, those changes that do occur appear to 
have been made deliberately, and with a definite pur- 
pose. Let us consider what this purpose was. 

We find, in the first place, that interpolations are 
frequently made in order to add a Christian flavour to 
pagan recitals, or to enhance the dignity of the hero 
by synchronising events in his career with facts drawn 
from Biblical history. The birth and death of Conachar 
are made to coincide with the dates of our Lord's 
Nativity and Crucifixion, and the King is made to meet 
his doom in endeavouring to avenge the death of Christ, 
of which he has been informed by a druid. Prophecies 
before his birth foretell his fate, and the glories of his 
reign are foreshadowed as being parallel to those of our 
Lord. 

Cuchullin, again, when going forth to die, sees the 
heavenly host descending over Emain Macha and Rath 
Sailenn (afterwards Armagh), and he is cheered and in- 
spirited by the vision. After his death his soul appears V 
floating over Emain Macha in his spirit- chariot chant- ^ 
ing a mystic song of the Coming of Christ and the i 
Day of Doom. j 



xxii THE CUCHULLIN SAGA 

Long afterwards, when he appears to King Laegaire, 
he calls upon him to repent and believe on God and 
St. Patrick. We can see at once that all these addi- 
tions have been made by the monkish scribes in order 
to adapt the favourite tales of paganism to Christian 
ears, and they strike a curiously incongruous note in 
their barbaric setting. 

But the redactors went beyond this. Not only did 
they make additions to the narrative, they also deliber- 
ately suppressed portions of it. 

This may in part have arisen from their incapacity 
to grasp the ideas belonging to a state of things that 
had to a large extent passed away, but there is no 
doubt that it arose also from their disapproval of some 
of the teachings of paganism, and their disinclination 
to incorporate them into their own work. 

This disinclination is especially visible in those tales 
that embody the doctrine of re-incarnation, a doctrine 
which clashed with the teaching of the Church and was 
therefore carefully suppressed. 

The tales of the genesis of Conachar and Cuchullin, 
in which this doctrine is embodied, have come down to 
us in so confused and mutilated a form, that it is im- 
possible to reconstruct out of them any consecutive 
narrative that will tally at all points with other versions. 
The recensions differ so seriously, and the tales have so 
evidently been altered in transcription, that they have 
become not only confused but contradictory ; we have 
lost the clue to the meaning of parts of them. In 
the Book of Leinster account of Conachar*s birth, 
which, substantially, is the form given below, all 
reference to any mystery connected with the monarch's 
origin is omitted ; so also in one of the two Egerton 



INTRODUCTION xxiu 

versions of the 'Generation of CuchuIIin,* there is 
no reference to him as being: a re-incarnation of the 



Tu^tha god Lugh lamfadd^ although this is else- 
where distinctly stated. It is only in those pieces 
which, being less important and less popular, have 
escaped the improving hand of the scribe, that we 
find the doctrine plainly set down. In the Chophur in 
da muccida} for instance, the descent of the famous 
Brown Bull or Donn, around which the Epic of the 
T4in b6 Cuailgne revolves, is distinctly traced from 
personages belonging to an inferior rank among the race 
of earlier gods, who have sunk, through a series of 
transmigrations, from higher to lower forms. All the 
principa l act ors in the Sag a ^ Conachan Cuchu IIin, 
Conall cernach, and Celtchar mac Uitechar. appear to b e 
re-incarnations of Tuatha d6 Danann, and ar e thereby 
set outside the scope of ordinary human affairs; th eir 
acts partake of a divine significance. The separate 
tales relatmg to the generation of the two latter per- 
sonages have unfortunately been lost, but the birth- 
story of Conall cernach in C6ir Antnann^ 'Fitness of 
names,' bears out the supposition. It is just possible 
that some of these tales may have been suppressed as I 
giving support to a form of belief that Christianity had . 
set itself to abolish in Ireland. ' 

Besides these apparently intentional omissions and 
additions made by the compilers, we have to take into 
account the alterations accidentally introduced through 

^ Irische Texte^ edited Windisch and Stokes, dritte Serie, pp. 230-278. 

* Irische 7exte, dritte Serie, Heft 2, § 251. Since the above was 
written the subject has been treated at some length by Mr. Alfred Nutt, in 
his Voyage o/Bftin, vol. ii. (Grimm Lib. Series). His general conclusions 
are in accord with those stated above. 



xxiv THE CUCHULLIN SAGA 

the ignorance or negligence of copyists, or through 
attempts made by them to correct or explain diffi- 
culties met with in the texts they were transcrib- 
ing. Additions and explanations originally made by 
scribes on the margin of the manuscripts have fre- 
quently crept into the text and become an integral 
part of it. 

An example of this will be found in the 'Tragical 
Death of Conachar/ where the scribe has added, as a 
conjecture of his own, that Altus the Consul brought the 
news of Christ's death to the King, though the account 
in the manuscript from which he was copying said 
that Bacrach the Druid did so. He evidently could not 
imagine a pagan druid showing so much interest in the 
death of our Lord. Probably, had the tale been re-copied, 
the original form would have been omitted altogether, 
and the conjecture of the twelfth century scribe would 
have taken its place. No doubt many anomalies have 
been introduced into the tales in some such manner. 
O'Curry notices that this particular scribe must have 
been of an impatient temperament, as he omits alto- 
gether to mention the chief point of his tale, the death 
of the king. 

Lastly, we have to consider the variations brought 
1 about by the effort to glorify the hero by comparison 
\ with classical and other personages, by the introduction 
^ of ideas borrowed from classical, Oriental, northern and 
romance literature, and also changes that arose naturally 
out of variations in fashions and manners. These last, 
though not the least important, may be rapidly dis- 
missed. All romantic literatures are subject to such 
changes. English romance of the fourteenth and 
fifteenth centuries, though frequently dealing with the 



INTRODUCTION xxv 

tales of semi-barbaric days, has so modified the out- 
ward details of manners and clothing, as well as the 
tone of thought that, but for their names, we should 
hardly recognise in them the heroes of the olden time. 
The northern tales of Ireland have to a large extent 
escaped this gradual process of modification, possibly 
because they were replaced in later times by the Ossianic 
Saga, which was less lofty, more lively, humorous, and 
popular than its predecessors. Nevertheless, we have 
only to place one of the less-well-known tales side by 
side with one of those which, by retaining its place in 
popular favour, became subject to modification during 
centuries of recital, in order to see at once how con- 
siderably the tone of the story, and in some points its 
detail also, has been modernised. Compare the fierce ,| 
barbaric flavour of such pieces as the * Siege of Howth,^^- 
the * Debility of the Ultonian Warriors,* or of some of 
the wild tales which are called remscila or introductory 
tales to the T^in b6 Cuailgne with the tone of such 
favourite recitals as the ' Tragical Death of the Sons of 
Usnach,' or the * Feast of Briccriu.' The difference will 
be perceived at once. The last-named, while in some 
parts retaining its ancient wildness and dignity, has in / 
other parts been softened, modernised, and stripped of \ 
its uncouth grandeur. Incidents reminiscent of romantic < 
and classic literature have been introduced ; the heroes 
no longer fight in chariots but on horseback ; Cuchullin 
is found in single combat with Herakles, his prototype 
in classic mythology. These things are incongruities 
which the change of fashion and the advance of 
knowledge demanded of the reciter. The heroes of 
Ireland had to be brought into competition with the 
great figures of other nations ; in order to hold their 



\ 



xxvi THE CUCHULLIN SAGA 

place they must prove themselves superior to them in 
prowess. 

It is impossible in the present state of our knowledge 
to determine how far those similarities which we find 
between Irish and Continental romance literature have 
been introduced from abroad, and how far they have 
sprung up independently in Ireland. It is compara- 
tively easy in some cases to trace their origin, in others 
it is impossible to know whether parallel ideas have 
had a separate growth, or have been imported from 
without. In many instances the Irish form is un- 
doubtedly the oldest. Let us take, for example, the 
incident of the judgment of Terrible in the tale to 
which we have just referred, viz. : the * Feast of Briccriu.' ^ 
There had been a contest for superiority in valour 
between the three chief champions of Erin, Conall 
cemach * the Victorious,' Laeghaire buadach * the 
Triumphant,' and Cuchullin. One of the arbitrators is 
Terrible, who dwells beneath a lake. Terrible proposes 
a test of courage. The three heroes are to cut off his 
' head to-day and he will cut off theirs to-morrow. 
Conall and Laegaire decline the bargain : they say 
that they have not power to re-vivify after their execu- 
tion. Cuchullin, as is usual with him, accepts, on 
condition that he shall be hereafter acknowledged as 
prime champion of Erin. Conall and Laegaire say 
that he may have the hohour and welcome if these are 
the terms upon which it is to be won ; and they swear 
that they will henceforth renounce the quest. The 
hero then concludes the bargain with Terrible ; and he, 
after uttering an incantation over his blade, puts down 

^ This 6ne tale has been translated into French by M. D'Arbois de 
Jubainvillc and published in his Epopie celtiqm m Irlattde. 



INTRODUCTION xxvii 

his head and allows Cuchullin to cut it off. Rising 
immediately, the decapitated warrior takes up his head 
in one hand and holding it against his breast, he lifts 
the hatchet in the other and plunges beneath the 
lake. 

Next day Terrible returns resuscitated, and Cuchullin, 
faithful to his bargain, lays his head on the block. 
Terrible makes believe to bring down the axe three 
times over his head and back. Then, satisfied of his 
valour, he bids the hero rise, for he has proved himself 
to be Erin's prime champion. The same story, with 
some slightly different details, is told of Cuchullin, in 
a tale called Cennach ind Rianado or the ' Bargain of 
the Strong Man.' ^ In this, the giant is called Munre- 
mar, and the scene takes place in the house of the 
Red Branch, but the circumstances are otherwise iden- 
tical. The denouement is, however, different. Cuchullin, 
spurred on by the taunts of his comrades, awaits in 
deep dejection the return of the strong man. He 
stretches out his head upon the block only to find 
that it is so large that his neck reaches but half-way. 
' Stretch out your neck, wretch ! * cries the man. * I 
cannot slay you, what with the shortness of your neck 
and of your side.' Then Cuchullin stretched out his 
neck so that a grown man's foot would have fitted in 
between every two ribs of his, and he stretched his 
neck till it reached the block on the other side. The 
giant, who turns out to be CuchuUin's foe, Cur6i mac 
Daire, King of Munster, come in disguise *to fulfil 
the word he had given Cuchullin,' raises the axe to 
the roof-tree of the house, but brings it down on the 

^ It is published \vith translation by Professor Kuno Meyer in R€v, 
Celt,, vol. xiv. ; see also vol. xiii. pp. 22, 28-31. 



xxviii THE CUCHULLIN SAGA 

blunt Side. He then awards the champion's portion 
to Cuchullin. 

Now this story is found in all its salient features 
in the fourteenth century North of England romance, 
'Sir Gawaine and the Green Knight/ Although the 
motive is dissimilar, the contention for the champion's 
portion or seat being a characteristically Irish feature, 
the general outline of the story is the same. Shortly, it 
is as follows. On Christmas Day, in presence of King 
Arthur and his Court, Sir Gawaine cuts off the head 
of the Green Knight. The Knight stops, picks up the 
head and, remounting his horse, bids Sir Gawaine 
meet him a year hence at the Green Chapel, where he 
will give him blow for blow. He sets out, but finds 
himself presently in a new country, where he is well 
cared for during three days at a splendid castle. The 
hostess, a beautiful woman, entertains him royally ; she 
woos him, kissing him thrice, .but he gives the kisses 
each day to the hunter in return for spoils of the chase. 
He is, however, weak enough to retain a jewelled belt 
that she has presented to him. On the fourth day he 
meets the Green Knight, and kneels before him to 
receive* the mortal blow. Instead, he only gets a slight 
scar, the punishment for having kept the belt. Had he 
not given away the kisses of the lady (who is * Morgan 
the Fairy ') he would have received a mortal wound.^ 

Another close resemblance to an incident in the 
Arthurian legend is found in the tale of Cuchullin's 
death. In the Book of Leinster version,* a very fine 

^ ' Sir Gawaine and the Green Knight/ edited by R. Morris, Early 
English Text Soc., 1S64. Miss J. L. Weston has recently worked out 
the whole subject in vol. vii. of the Grimm Lib. Series. 

9 Published with translation by Dr. Whitley Stokes in Jitv, Celi. 
vol. iii. and in/ra^ pp. 253-263. 



INTRODUCTION xxix 

and simple piece of writing, we read that after the 
hero's death • his soul appeared to the fifty queens who 
had loved him, and they saw him floating in his spirit- 
chariot over Emain Macha, and they heard him chant 
a mystic song of the Coming of Christ and the day of 
doom/ This passage has its parallel in the queens who 
bore away Arthur in the barge across the lake after his 
final battle. The passage in Malory's Morte cP Arthur 
runs thus: *Than syr Bedwere toke the Kyng vpon 
his backe and so wente wyth hym to that water syde / 
& whan they were at the water syde / euyn fast by the 
banke houed a lytyl barge wyth many fayr ladyes in 
hit / & emonge hem al was a quene / and al they had 
blacke hoodes / and al they wepte and shryked whan 
they sawe Kyng Arthur / 

IT * Now put me in to the barge sayd the kyng and so 
he dyd softelye / And there receyued hym thre quenes 
wyth grete mornyng and soo they sette hem doun / and 
in one of their lappes Kyng Arthur layed hys heed / and 
than that quene sayd a dere broder, why haue ye taryed 
so longe from me / Alas this wounde on your heed 
hath caught ouermoche colde/ And soo than they 
rowed from the londe/and syr bedwere behelde'all tho 
laydes goo from hym /^ . . .' 

We may take as anot}\pr example of ideas common 
to both cycles, but which seem to have had an in- 
dependent and spontaneous origin .in Ireland, and of 
which we find there the oldest existing examples, the 
beautiful poetic symbolism of the two trees springing 
from the tombs of lovers and intertwining above their 
graves, the outward sign of union in death. This is 

^ Lt Morte Darthur^ by Syr Thomas Malory. Caxton edition, ed. 
by H. Oskar Sommer, Ph.D., vol. i. Text, p. 849, 11. 23-36. 



XXX THE CUCHULLIN SAGA 

a very widely diflused idea: it is found not only in 
several English ballads, such as Fair Margaret and 
Sweet William, Lord Lovell, the Douglas Tragedy, 
Earl Brand, etc., but in Sweden, Norway, Denmark, 
and Germany ; in Magyar, Afghan, Kurd, Portuguese, 
Servian and Breton romance. It forms an appropriate 
close to the unhappy loves of Tristan and Iseult. In 
Ireland we find this symbol of constant and enduring 
affection connected with two of the finest of the old 
love stories, the tale of Deirdre ^ and the tale of Baile 
the Sweet- Spoken.* At the close of the tale of the 
Sons of Usnach, OTlanagan tells us that the following 
traditional relation is always added. King Conachar, 
incensed that the lovers should even in death be laid 
tbgether, ordered their graves to be separated, and 
stakes of yew driven through the bodies to keep them 
for ever asunder. These yew- stakes, however, sprang 
into trees which grew so tall that they embraced each 
other over the Cathedral of Armagh. This addition 
is evidently of later date than the tale itself, and might 
easily have been imported from outside. The other 
story, however, is certainly ancient and has some 
features that are peculiarly Gaelic. Two lovers, 
separated from each other, and dwelling one in Ulster 
and one in Leinster, fall dead on learning each of the 
death of the other ; the false news having been con- 
veyed to them by a horrible apparition. Out of the 
grave of Aillinn, the lady, sprang an apple-tree which 
bore on its top the shape of Aillinn's head. Out of her 
lover's tomb grew a yew, which on its top bore the 

^ See fif/hi, p. 53, the ' Sorrowful Death of the Sons of Usnach.' 
* This charming tale has been translated by Professor Kuno Meyer in 
Rev. Celt, vol. xiii. 



INTRODUCTION xxxi 

shape of the head and form of Baile. At the end of 
seven years these trees were cut down and poet's tablets 
made of them, in which most appropriately the * visions 
and feasts and loves and wooings' of Ulster and of 
Leinster were severally written. The tale then goes 
on to say that the famous King of Tara, Art mac 
Conn, on the occasion of a great feast caused these 
tablets to be brought before him ; but hardly were they 
taken into his hands than they sprang together, twining 
one around the other • as the woodbine round a branch, 
nor was it possible to sever them. And they were 
kept, like any other jewel, in the treasury of Tara.* 
The circumstances of this tale are so ancient and 
curious, that it is impossible to suppose that it had any 
other than an Irish origin. 

Among Oriental parallels, in which it is impossible 
that one story can have influenced the other, we may 
take the story of Cuchullin and his son Conla (or Conn- 
laech) as an example. It bears a remarkable resem- 
blance to the Persian story of Sohrab and Rustem. 
When Cuchullin parts from Aife, the warrior-woman in 
Alba, he leaves with her a ring to be placed on the finger 
of the son who should be born to them, so soon as he 
can wear it.^ The child is to follow him to Erin and 
seek his father, but he is put under gessa never to refuse 
combat to any who offer it, and above all never to 
reveal his name. The youth eventually went to Ireland 
and unwittingly engaged in single combat with his own 
father, by whose hand he was slain. It was only at the 

* * Wooing of Emer, ' infra^ p. 79. For a discussion of the subject, see a 
[xiper entitled ' Problems of Heroic Legend,' by Alfred Null, International 
Folklore Congress, 1891. M. d*Arbois dc Jubainville considers that the 
Irish version of the legend is older than either the Persian or Teutonic 
one. 



xxxii THE CUCHULLIN SAGA 

moment of death that the unhappy parent recognised 
the ring that he had given to his son. 

The Persian story is almost identical. Rustem, fol- 
lowing the traces of his horse, which has been stolen 
from him during his sleep, becomes entangled in a 
wood, but is received with great hospitality by the 
King of Semengam, who gives him his daughter in 
marriage. When they separate on the morrow, Rustem 
leaves with Tehmine a pearl which is to be worn as a 
token and bestowed upon her child, should it prove to 
be either son or daughter. It will endow the wearer 
with invincible courage. Sohrab is born some time 
afterwards and, like Conla, develops with marvellous 
rapidity the strength and valour of a warrior. Conla 
is only seven years old when he departs to find 
Cuchullin ; Sohrab, at the age of ten years, defeats all 
his comrades, and forces from his mother the name of 
his sire. He then determines to become king of Iran 
by dethroning Kawas ; but in destroying the White 
Castle defended by a warrior princess, he enters into 
single combat with his father and is mortally wounded 
by him. As he falls, Rustem recognises on the arm of 
his son the pearl that he had left with Tehmine. 

Of classic parallels several examples may be cited. 
In reading the 'Wooing of Emer' {infra\ for example, 
the account of Dervorgil, daughter of Ruad, seated on 
the seashore awaiting the coming of the Formorian 
pirates who are to carry her off in unholy tribute, will 
call up to the reader classical analogies, though it would 
be difficult to decide whether the story is an imita- 
tion. We incline to think that the story of Dervorgil is 
in some points so completely Irish that it must have 
originated quite independently. 



INTRODUCTION xxxui 

Norse and Teutonic myth probably exercised some ( 
influence over early Gaelic literature. This would 
be only the natural outcome of centuries of close inter- 
course and inter-marriage, and the debt was richly 
y repaid by Ireland in her influence over the Northern 
Saga and Edda. At the present moment the exact 
nature and extent of this influence is undergoing in- 
vestigation by German and English scholars, and it is 
too early to pronounce upon the subject^ Whether the 
lat^e claims made by Zimmer and his followers for 
Scandinavian literary domination over Irish romance 
will be ultimately accepted cannot at present be fore- 
seen. Yet when we have taken into account all these 
changes brought into the tales from without, the fact 
remains that in all their broader general features these 
old legends are purely Irish, and that such characteristics 
as may have been impressed upon them through contact 
with other literatures are of very small importance when 
compared with the whole mass of the romance which to 
a slight degree they effected. We are here speaking 
only of the older heroic Sagas, which were preserved 
from about the eleventh or twelfth century in writing ; 
that is to say, the cycle of the Tuatha d^ Danann gods, 
and the Conchobar-Cuchulainn cycle, with the tales 
more or less closely connected with the latter and 
partaking of the same literary character. The third 
cycle, that of the Ossianic or Finn Saga, is of a wholly 
different character and cannot be treated on the same 
lines. It seems to have had a continuous growth and 
development through a long space of time, and has 
undergone great modifications. Much of it was handed 

^ Zimmer, Keltische Beitrage^ iii. Zeitschrift fur deutsches Alterthum^ 
Berlin, 1891. 

C 



xxxiv THE CUCHULLIN SAGA 

down orally, and even to the present day, the peasants 
relate the deeds of Finn and his heroes. It is probable 
that many stories, originally independent, have become 
united to this cycle, in the same manner as the Arthurian 
Saga gathered into itself many tales having an inde- 
pendent origin. Many elements that were not part of 
the ancient legends have entered into them. Moreover, 
these tales do not show any continuity : it would be 
much more difficult to construct a satisfactory Saga of 
a connected kind out of the Finn stories than it is to do 
so out of the Cuchullin stories, and this, not from lack of 
material, but because of its abundance, and because the 
diversity of style and tone that is to be found in these 
tales would not allow of their producing the required 
effect of homogeneity. They are the literature of a long 
series of centuries, and they bear all the marks of the 
varied conditions under which they came into existence. 

The Cuchullin Saga, on the other hand, is singularly 
complete and homogeneous. It exceeds the other 
Gaelic cycles in the fulness and orderliness of its 
conception, as it exceeds them in dignity and in polish 
of style and sentiment. 

We have, too, the singular good fortune to possess by 
far the larger number of the tales belonging to this 
Saga, as a glance at the chart at the beginning of this 
work will show. 

Almost all the larger and morfe important tales have 
come down to us, and it is possible that future research 
may yet fill up some gaps. Of some of the more popular 
tales as many as eight copies exist ; indeed, we can 
judge pretty correctly of the comparative degree of 
favour accorded to the tales by the number of manu- 
scripts we have of them, The * Sorrowful Death of the 



INTRODUCTION xxxv 

Sons of Usnach/ for instance, was evidently a very 
favourite tale : M. D'Arbois gives a list of twenty-one 
versions of it, some in quite modern copies ; of the 
' Wooing of Emer ' there are remaining eight copies ; 
of the 'Battle of Muirthemne/ twenty-three; of the 
• Bruidhen di Derga/ nine. 

This preservation of the tales, due in part to their 
early redaction and in part perhaps to their loss of 
favour before the Ossianic Saga, is the more satisfactory, 
because the tales are so intimately connected together 
that the loss of any important story leaves a gap in the 
continuity of the whole. They form so complete a 
series that we might almost suppose the entire Saga to 
have been invented and thrown together by a single 
brain. The plot develops in the various tales with the / 
regularity and sequence of successive chapters in a. 
novel. We can trace the career of the chief figures in 
the drama from birth to death through a series o(j 
adventures that are mutually interdependent. Wej 
become as familiar with each of them as with the friends , 
around our own fireside. Every detail of their lives! 
is laid before us ; every adventure that they encounter 
has its own proper place in the Saga ; every personage^ 
be he good or evil, reaps in his lifetime his due reward. ' 

Although the cycle exists, and apparently always 
has existed, in a number of isolated tales, to the 
minds of the bards it must have presented itself as a 
connected whole. No character is lost sight of ; and 
the strong sense of poetic justice that denominates 
Irish legend requires that the final judgment should 
be accurately meted out to each according to the laws 
of a just retribution. 

What is more singular still is the uniform dignity of 



xxxvi THE CUCHULLIN SAGA 

thought and style preserved in the various stories, and 
this in spite of the fact that they have been handed 
down to us by a large number of scribes writing at 
different periods and in various places. 

A few of the tales show a marked contrast to the 
rest ; such are the • Death of Fergus mac Leide/ ^ one 
of the few purely humorous folk- tales belonging to this 
cycle ; some recensions of the Deirdre story ; and the 
second * Feast of Briccriu/ which M. D'Arbois tells 
us was composed on an occasion when the guests, 
wearied of the older and more familiar form of the 
story, demanded something new, whereupon the reciter 
invented on the spot a bombastic variation of the 
original theme.* 

As a rule, however, we experience no shock in point 
of style in passing from one story to another : though 
some are older and some are simpler than others, the 
general manner of recital is the same throughout ; and 
above all, the characters keep their own individuality 
strongly marked and unimpaired in all the stories. 
They have to a very large extent escaped the modernis- 
ation consequent upon oral repetition. 

In his recently published preface to the Yellow Book 
of Lecan, Dr. Atkinson makes some charges against 
ancient Irish Literature which, coming from such a 
source, may seriously militate against the public 
appreciation oF it, and delay its acceptance as one of 
the important mediaeval romance literatures of the 
world. Speaking of the imaginative work of the 

» Sundish H. O'Grady, Siha Gadelica, vol. ii. pp. 269-285. 

■ Epo^e altiqtu in Irlandt, The author does not give his authority 
for this statement. Dr. Windisch has published the original in Jrischc 
Texfit iweite Serie, i. Heft. 



INTRODUCTION xxxvii 

bards, he makes the three following statements. First 
he says : ' There is no solid ground for supposing that 
the tales current at the time of our earliest manuscripts 
were much more numerous than the tales of which 
fragments have come down to us : the facsimiles 
published by the Academy probably contain a large 
proportion of all that ever existed ; and here it is 
astonishing how little there really is, considering the 
number of pages occupied by the writing. There are 
so many repetitions of certain tales, there is so much 
of mere metrical sawdust and technical scaffolding, so 
many pages taken up with genealogical fact and 
speculation . . . that the whole mass, when sifted, 
furnishes in reality but a very small quantity of what 
may be called imaginative literature.' Secondly, he 
says : ' As to their knowledge of classic literature or of 
any form of such scholastic lore as was cultivated in 
the Middle Ages, we can scarcely assert anything but 
of a negative kind. The Irish writer in general seems 
to have had no resources save the recollection" of his 
oft-told tales. These were de rigueur and he could not 
alter them. The movements of the world affected him 
but little, and its great models probably never reached 
him. Hence in all the enormous mass of Irish manu- 
script preserved, there is absolutely nothing that in 
the faintest degree rivals the splendours of the 
vernacular literature of the Middle Ages.* Again, 
*. . . The Irish writers do not often sin by grossness 
of speech, probably never by licentiousness of thought, 
but there is an utter absence of any elevation of thought 
or dignity about them.' 

Here are three accusations against the Irish writers 
of romance. First, paucity of material ; secondly, 



xxxviii THE CUCHULLIN SAGA 

* 

ignorance of classic and foreign mediaeval literatures ; 
thirdly, an 'utter absence of elevation of thought or 
dignity.* These are very serious strictures : if they are 
true, Ireland certainly is possessed of no literature 
worthy the name. With regard to the question of 
paucity of material, it is difficult to see how, with the 
Yellow Book of Lecan before him, the writer could 
have come to this conclusion. A very large proportion 
of the contents of that book are pure romance, and it 
contains some of the finest romances in the language. 
Take the list of contents. It opens with the 'Voyage 
of Maelduin,' the * Voyage of Snedgus and MacRialga,' 
the * Navigation of Bran,' and the 'Adventures of Condla.' 
Except a * duan *-poem all the pieces in the first divi- 
sion are therefore pure romance. Division II. opens 
with a fragment of the Tdin b6 Cuailgne, and contains 
the TAin bo Dartada, Tdin bo Regaman, TAin bo 
Regamna, Tdin b6 Fraich, and TAin bo Aingen, suc- 
cessive romances. Then, mixed indeed with some 
homilies, tales of saints, and historical fragments, we 
find the * Destruction of the Court of Da Derga,' the 
tale of the * Sons of Usnach,* the * Feast of Briccriu,' the 
* Wooing of Becfola,* the * Slaying of Cur6i mac Daire,' 
a number of CuchuUin stories, and some of the more 
important tales of the Ossianic literature. Altogether 
there are upwards of thirty semi-historic and romantic 
pieces of importance in this one manuscript alone, of 
which a good number belong to our Saga. 

Of the great mass of Gaelic literature that has come 
down to us, a goodly portion is taken up with pure 
story-telling. But while it is true, and fortunately so, 
that several copies of the more important tales remain, 
and in many cases supplement each other, and while it is 



INTRODUCTION xxxix 

probable that we possess some fragments at least of the 
majority of those most commonly in use for recitation, 
it is far from correct to say that there have come down 
to us almost all that ever existed. Take the Book of 
Leinster catalogue of romances. This twelfth century 
manuscript contains a most valuable list of one hundred 
and eighty-seven tales known to the writer as Prime 
Tales, or those of the first importance. Of these only 
about sixty-eight remain in any complete form, though 
about twenty-five more are known through Keating, or 
are incorporated into other tales. Since O'Curry first 
republished the list, several tales unknown to him have 
been discovered, and others may yet be unearthed by 
a more thorough examination of the manuscripts. 
Nevertheless, the fact that out of a list which contains 
only ' Prime Stories,' or those considered by the bards to 
be of the greatest importance, only about one-third have 
been preserved, and only about half are known at all, 
is sufficient proof that a large number even of the most 
popular tales have been lost to us. Now a fully 
equipped poet was said to have at his command ' five 
times fifty' of these Prime Stories besides twice fifty 
Secondary Stories {i,e, three hundred and fifty in all), 
and there is no reason to doubt the truth of the state- 
ment. We see from it that the long catalogue given in 
the Book of Leinster forms by no means a complete 
series even of the Prime Tales, while it does not men- 
tion the Secondary Stories at all. The immense mass 
of Ossianic literature is hardly noticed in it ; the Fenian 
stories, except the * Elopement of Diarmuid and Grainne,' 
not having yet apparently made for themselves a place 
in the repertoire of the bardic * prime ' romances. 

Nearly all those mentioned in the list belong to the 



xl THE CUCHULLIN SAGA 

earlier cycles, or are of a semi-historic character. Of 
the cycle of the Tuatha d^ Danann there is hardly any 
doubt that tales were known to the people which have 
disappeared, and were probably never committed to 
writing at all ; and of our own cycle^ although it is 
perhaps the most complete of any, certain tales are not 
forthcoming.^ The Battle of Magh Rath (Moyra), 
which is a late semi-historical epic, mentions a number 
of well-known Ultonian fights, of which even the names 
are unknown to us, but which were evidently familiar 
to the writer and his hearers at the time at which 
the tract was written.* Dr. Atkinson's first statement 
is not, we think, borne out by an examination of the 
question. 

The second statement, that the scribes were ignorant 
of classic and foreign literatures and of scholastic lore, 
does not much concern us here ; but to the final accusa- 
tion, viz., that the Irish romanticist was deficient in 
imagination and elevation of thought, we are prepared 
to give a direct denial, and we hope the republication 
of this collection of tales belonging to the Cuchullin 
Saga will confirm our view in the minds of our readers. 
We believe that Irish romance may take its place fear- 
lessly beside the Arthurian legend, the French and 
Provencal romances, or the Northern Sagas in the 
same stage of their development, and that it will be 
found to possess some of the best qualities, and to be 
comparatively free from some of the worst defects, of 
other mediaeval literatures. Dr. Atkinson has done 
Irish story-telling justice in saying that it seldom sins 
by grossness of speech, and still less often by licentious- 
ness of thought. In the general purity of its tone and 

* See Chart. • Pp. 211-215. 



INTRODUCTION xli 

language, it compares very favourably with the medi- 
aeval literatures of the south of Europe. • Such blemishes 
as we find in the stories arise seldom or never from 
looseness of thought or language on the part of the 
story-teller ; they arise out of certain primitive habits 
of life and pertai n tribal regulations that, though repel- 
lent to modern iHeasj were_not so in the age in which 
t hey aros e ; or out of attempts to explain the great 
mysteries of life and change and renewal before which 
the savage mind has always bowed in instinctive awe ; 
or out of a simpler and more naturalistic mode of 
expression than modern taste allows. All archaic 
literatures reveal the primitive mind brought face to 
face with the, to it, inexplicable puzzles of the varia- 
tions, the decay, and the rebirth of nature ; of human 
birth and death ; of the connection between man and 
that invisible world into which, one by one, his fellows 
have departed, never to return. Two problems, above 
all, confronted him continually, and in the presence of 
both he was struck dumb, namely, the daily renewal 
of the sun, and the perpetual reproduction of life. 
Before both he felt that awe which is the beginning 
of worship, and to explain both he invented myths that 
seem to us inadequate, confused, and often repulsive, 
but which were the only means whereby the uncultured 
mind could express its wonder and curiosity. Those 
things that we have learned by long experiment or by 
scientific inquiry were all unknown to him ; moreover, 
those rules of life which experience has taught us to be 
beneficial or to be harmful to society, he had to learn 
to be so only by repeated experiment ; even those 
dictates of sound judgment which we call moral laws 
and think to be implanted in our nature from without. 



xlii THE CUCHULLIN SAGA 

have originally been reached by our ancestors only 
through a long series of experiences, whose results have 
proved certain acts to be injurious and others to be 
beneficial. Such myths and such naturalistic expres- 
sions, however, do not merit the reproach which belongs 
to intentional grossness of idea and of speech. They 
have nothing whatever in common with it ; and though 
we have thought it well, in a book intended for general 
reading, to omit a few passages that might wound 
modern susceptibilities, we would have it to be under- 
stood that these passages are not only very few in 
number, but that they are generally the outcome of 
an ancient simplicity of life and thought, and seldom 
arise from any coarseness or indecency of design. For 
in reading the majority of these tales we must remem- 
ber that we are dealing with ideas springing from a 
very primitive stage of civilisation : they arose in days 
when warriors appeared in full dress with the skulls 
of their conquered foes dangling from their waist- 
belts ; when one of the three Royal Halls of Emania 
was adorned with the same ghastly trophies; and 
when no champion of repute thought that he had 
achieved his day's work unless he had slain his enemy. 
In the halls of the Red Branch it was necessary to 
hang up the champions' swords and shields in a separate 
house, lest the warriors should spring to arms in the 
course of a friendly banquet. In battle, noted cham- 
pions fought with sling-stones made from the brains of 
their enemies. The fierce barbarism of the period 
comes out in such scenes as that in the * Siege of Howth,' 
where, in time of war, the milk from the cows driven 
into the centre of the headland was cast down the cliffs, 
rather than that it should be given to the wounded and 



INTRODUCTION xliii 

dying troops; in the curious dialogue between Cuchullin 
and the Morrigu or goddess of war ; in the brutality of 
the king in the tale of the ' Debility of the Ultonian 
Warriors'; or in almost any passage from the^Tdin b6 
Cuailgne/ 

We naturally expect, with this primitive civilisation, / 
to meet with a corresponding barbarity of thought I 
But here we find ourselves again at variance with the 
preface to the Yellow Book of Lecan, for the tales are 
remarkable, not only for purity of thought, but for a 
certain elevation and dignity that impresses us with the 
conviction that we are dealing in them with men of 
honour and delicacy. The heroes are always gentle- 
men, their appeal is to noble motives ; their chivalrous 
generosity to their enemies is only equalled by their 
devotion to their friends. Classic literature contains 
nothing more pathetic and more full of the true spirit 
of chivalry than the combat between Cuchullin and 
Ferdia,* once bosom friends and fellow-pupils, now 
urged into death-combat by the wiles of Meave. Re- 
mark their noble estimate of each other's prowess ; their 
sorrowful memory of old friendships ; the fine lament 
of Cuchullin over his fallen friend. Each night, when 
the combat is over, they throw their arms round each 
other's necks and embrace. Their horses are put up in 
the same paddock and their charioteers sleep beside 
the same fire: each night Cuchullin sends to his 
wounded friend a share of the same herbs that are 
applied to his own wounds, while to Cuchullin, Ferdia 
sends a fair half of the pleasant delicate foods supplied 
to him by the men of Erin. . Generosity was carried to 
an extraordinary pitch between enemies, and many of 

* See infra^ Tain B6 Cuailgne, sec. 79. 



xliv THE CUCHULLIN SAGA 

the Irish conceptions of honour were founded upon 
exaggerated ideas of generosity. When the satirist, 
Cu Cuillesg, demands from Cuchullin the gift of his 
spear with which he intends to kill its owner, Cuchul- 
lin immediately grants it, though in such a manner that 
in casting it towards his adversary, it slays him and his 
companions. So far from taking pleasure in the death 
of his wily enemy, Cuchullin, in one version of the tale, 
bemoans the loss of his own honour, in having inadver- 
tently compassed his death ; nor will he, though the 
spear is lying on the ground, consent to pick it up 
again. * Nay,' he says, when his charioteer woul4 
recover the weapon, * never have I sought to recover a 
gift that I had bestowed, neither seek I to retrieve this 
one ' ; and this, although Cuchullin knows that it is by 
this spear that his own death will befall.^ Again, in 
the * Siege of Howth * and the * Death of Cuchullin ' we 
find another instance of singular chivalry between foes. 
In the former story we have a combat described between 
Mesgregra, King of Leinster, and Conall cernach \ in the 
second a similar single combat between Conall cernach 
and Lugaid to avenge the death of Cuchullin. In both 
cases Conall's adversary has lost a hand in a former, 
fight, and in order to equalise his strength with that of 
his enemy, Conall consents to have one of his own 
arms bound to his side that he may have no unfair 
advantage.^ We find the same high idea of honour in 
warfare all through the romances. See, for instance, 
the conversation between Fergus and Cuchullin about 
the death .of the rash youth, Etarchomal, who went 

^ From the ' Great Defeat on the Plain of Muirthemne ' (MS. Brit. Mus., 
Egerton 132, fol. i). 
' See ' Death of Cuchullin ' and ' Siege of Howth,' supra pp. 92, 262. 



INTRODUCTION xlv 

against Cuchullin when under the safe escort of 
Fergus ; ^ or notice the reply of the messenger, who 
enters uninvited the Speckled Palace where Cuchullin 
lies sick, in the tale called the ' Sickbed of Cuchullin.' 
When asked his errand, the unknown replies: *Were 
he well who now lies here, he would be a guarantee for 
my safety against all Ulster ; since, however, he is in 
sickness and in evil plight, so much the more is he a 
security against them/ i.e. they would take no advan- 
tage of Cuchullin's illness to harm a friend of his, but 
would, on the contrary, so much the rather receive and 
Welcome him on that account. Truly we are dealing 
with savages whose feelings are the feelings of gentle- 
men. In all things they act up to the spirit of Cuchul- 
lin's exclamation when his friends would restrain him 
from going forth to his last fight, knowing that in that 
battle he must fall, * I had rather than the whole 
world's gold and than the earth's riches that death had 
ere now befallen me, so would not this shame and testi- 
mony of reproach now stand recorded against me ; for 
in every tongue this noble old saying is remembered, 
" Fame outlives Life." ' 

While the Saga with which we are now dealing has 
escaped almost entirely the exaggerations and the 
grotesque buffoonery of some of the later Ossianic 
stories, it is by no means devoid of humour. On the 
contrary, there is a constant play of bright and witty 
conversation, and a frequent introduction of lively 
incidents which prevents even the longer romances from 
becoming tedious. Even in the Tiin b6 Cuailgne, 
composed in large part of the description of a series 
of hand-to-hand combats, the fresh invention of the 

^ Tiin b6 Cuailgne, ' Combat of Etarchomal,* sees. 47, 48. 



xlvi THE CUCHULLIN SAGA 

writer and the constant introduction of humorous 
passages so breaks up the tale that it never becomes 
monotonous. How delicious is the conversation of 
the frightened youth, who is sent to cut down chariot- 
poles by Meave, about the terrible champion, Cuchullin, 
of whom he stands in so great terror ! Little is the 
timid woodcutter aware that it is to the hero himself 
that he is expressing his fears! How delightfully 
human is Cuchullin in spite of his prodigious strength 
and valour ! There is indeed something of the happy 
carelessness of boyhood, with its easy humour and 
good-nature, all through his career. Throughout the 
whole Saga there is a strong element of gaiety and 
of quaint or grim humour. Of the latter there can 
be no better example than the description of the 
raven that in stooping down to drink the dying 
hero's blood got entangled in his gore and overset. 
* Then,' says the tale, * Cuchullin, knowing well that it 
was his last laugh, laughed aloud.' The episode is 
worthy of a Northern epic. This lightness of touch, 
energy, and variety are almost peculiar to Irish Celtic 
romance ; the Arthurian cycle, especially, is deficient 
in humour. 

Again, we would point out the exquisite tenderness 
of the tales. As it belonged to Celtic romance to im- 
pose upon the mind of Europe a new type and ideal of 
womanhood, the type of Iseult and Elaine, of Guin- 
evere and Enid, so it belonged to Ireland to create some 
of the earliest love-tales of Western Europe, the love- 
tales of Deirdre and Emer, of Etaine and Grainne. 
The love-tales of Ireland are not alone among the most 
ancient in Western Europe, they have also a purity, a 
tenderness, and a charm hardly to be found elsewhere. 



INTRODUCTION xlvii 

They are indeed a special production of the Gael. 
These sprightly, winsome, very human maidens belong 
to an order of things as unlike the Titanic women of 
the Northern Saga as they are unlike the morbid, 
luxurious ladies of Southern romance. The Irish Saga 
holds an intermediate place between the two; it is 
more heroic than the one, more tender and human than 
the other. Two of these tales play a prominent part 
"in our Saga. The ' Wooing of Emer ' tells how Cuchul- / 
lin won his bride. The story of the ' Sons of Usnach * I 
tells the tale of Naisi's perils and sufferings in conse-) 
quence of his abduction of the promised wife of 
Conachar, Deirdre. Both tales show the high estimate 
that was placed in Ireland upon woman's influence. 
An interesting comparison might be instituted between 
the character of Deirdre in her extreme youth and 
before her flight with Naisi in the very early form of 
the tale published by Dr. Windisch in Irische Texte^ 
vol. i. pp. 67-81,^ and a modern version, recently pub- 
lished with an English translation, by Dr. Douglas 
Hyde, in the Zeitschrift filr CeltiscJu Philologie, The 
touch of savagery that enters into her wooing of Naisi 
in the ancient form of the tale has been softened into 
the coy shyness of the romantic girl of a later date. 
There is a scene in the later version that might well 
rank with the famous scene between Juliet and her nurse 
in Romeo and Juliet In the shortened form of Part I. 
given below, many of these details are omitted, but 
Part II., which differs much less seriously in various 

^ A French translation of Windisch's text will be found in Revtu des 
Traditions Populaires^ tome iii., avril 1888; and a version, substan- 
tially identical, made by O'Flanagan from an unknown MS., in the Trans- 
actions of the Gaelic Society. Dublin, 1808. 



xlviii THE CUCHULLIN SAGA 

versions than Part i., shows Deirdre as resourceful as 
she was constant and gentle. Her spirit is as fine as 
Emer's, and her foresight and watchfulness on behalf of 
her husband would, had they been heeded, have pre- 
served him from all perils. 

The character of Emer unfolds itself in a series of 
stories in which she plays her part. We know her 
from the moment that she comes before us in her girl- 
hood, sitting on the lawn before her father's fort at 
Lusk, • accomplished in the six arts of perfect woman- 
hood,' to the time when, having watched in vain for 
the return of her husband to his home at Dundalk, she 
rouses all the reserved forces of her nature to stir up 
vengeance for his death. One of the quaintest scenes 
in any old literature is the 'Contest of the Women,' ^ in 
the Feast of Briccriu, in which Emer loftily claims pre- 
cedence of the women of Erin on account of the 
superior valour of her husband. She is a type of 
woman altogether Irish. The Arthurian women are as 
gentle, but they lack the charming sprightliness, the 
spirit and self-respect, that add so much piquancy to 
the character of Emer and the rest. Notice in the 
* Wooing of Emer ' the delightful capriciousness of her 
conversation with her lover, her gay retorts, her pro- 
voking allusion, just at the moment when he believes 
her about to yield, to the habits of her country, where 
a younger sister may not be married before an elder. 
She is quite ready, she maliciously assures her wooer, 
to introduce him to her sister, who doubtless will value 
his attentions, and who is very ' expert in needlework.' 
There is much of the modern woman in Emer ; she 

^ M. D'Arbois de Jubainville gives a French translation of this text in 
Epopie celtiqne en Irlande, 



INTRODUCTION xlix 

never gives herself away, and she choses that her future 
husband, with whom she is nevertheless already in love, 
shall appreciate her value and prove himself worthy of 
her. So she recites before him her talents, her parent- 
age, her beauty, her noble womanhood ; and when, 
stung by her seeming scorn, he declares that he also is 
of noble birth and upbringing, and that in valour and 
honour no warrior in Ulster can dispute with him, she 
says that no doubt ' for a tender boy ' he has not done 
badly, but that strangely enough she has never so 
much as heard his name. And she sends him away 
with no further certainty of success than the promise 
that if he shall prove his prowess in a series of difficult 
feats she will not then refuse him. Thus she pricks 
on her lover to worthy deeds. Once won, she is the 
faithfulest of wives. Her pride in him, her grief at his 
loss, prove her in every way a mate fitted for a hero. 

We can hardly call the story of Macha ^ a love-tale, 
but as the history of a woman's heroic self-sacrifice on 
behalf of her husband, it would be hard to find its equal. 

Macha is superhuman ; she is one of the early deities 
come back, as they so often did, to share the sorrows 
and pains of men ; but this does not detract from the 
splendour of her resolve, the womanly dignity of her 
character, the pity of her suffering, the heroism of 
her endurance. It is a splendid tale. The dignity 
of her rebuke to the bystanders, * It is not becoming 
that in my condition I should be rudely gazed upon ' ; 
her last anguished appeal to their humanity, 'a 
mother has borne each one of you,' can only be 
equalled in the finest dramatic literature. It is akin 
to the spirit of Hermione and Cordelia, of Constance 

* 'Debility of the Ultonians,' infra^ pp. 95-lcx>. 

d 



1 THE CUCHULLIN SAGA 

and the mother of Coriolanus. The brief simplicity 
with which her tale is told enhances its force. 

{b) Historical Aspect of the Saga 

In spite of much that has been written to the 
contrary, there does not appear to be any solid 
ground for believing that most of the characters 
belonging to this cycle are historical personages, 
or that the cycle as a whole has any place in the 
Annals of Ireland. Like the Teutonic Saga, it is 
slightly connected with the history of the country that 
gave it birth, but, like that Saga, its most important 
figures and its general scope and purpose are purely 
mythological. Cuchullin and Emer, like Sigurd and 
Brynhilde, are the offspring of poetic imagination. 

Nevertheless, there is an evident effort made to give 
the Saga an appearance of historic probability by con- 
necting its central figures with actual historic personages. 
King Conachar is said to be the son of Fachtna 
fathach {i.e, the Wise or Prudent) who, according to 
the Four Masters, ascended the throne of Ulster in the 
Age of the World 5042 (B.C. 1 52). Here is the entry : 

'A.M. 5042. The first year of Ydichindi fatfiach in the 
sovereignty of Ireland.* This is immediately followed 
by the announcement of his death fifteen years later : 

'A.M. 5057. Fachtna fathach^ son of Rossa, son 
of Rudhraighe, after having been sixteen years in 
the sovereignty of Ireland, was slain by Eochaid 
feidhUach {i.e. the constant sighing).' It was in the time 
of the latter monarch that the division of Ireland into 
twenty-five parts, originated by Ugaine m6r three 
centuries earlier, was rescinded, and the division into 
five provinces made. 



INTRODUCTION li 

One of these divisions was governed by Fergus mac 
Leide,^ who ruled Ulster as tributary to Eochaid 
feidhleach and whose name appears occasionally in 
connection with our Saga. There is no mention 
whatever of Conachar in the Annals of the Four Masters 
although he is casually and doubtfully mentioned in 
the Annals of Clonmacnois with other princes belonging 
to our Saga. It has been attempted to identify him 
with a king named Conchobhar adhradhruadh (f>. 
Conor of the red eyelashes or eyebrows) son of 
Finn file^ son of Rossa ruadh^ who was sovereign of 
Ireland for one year in A.M. 5192 or about B.C. 3 (see 
Annals iv. Mast. A.M. 5192). Though the date would 
agree pretty well, the resemblance begins and ends 
at this point. He was king only one year, and reigned 
over all Erin, not over Ulster only ; he is said to have 
been killed by Lugaid of the Red Stripes, King of 
Erin, who had no hand in the death of the King of 
Ulster. In fact, though OTlaherty * accepts the whole 
of the Red Branch Champions, with Conachar at their 
head, as actual personages, there is no place for them 
to be found in the Annals. The mortal parentage 
of Conachar also is ascribed in most of the tales to 
Cathbad the druid, and it would appear to have been 
a later idea, introduced by the historians, to connect 
him with Fachtna fathack. In the poem, of which 
we have quoted a portion in the text (sec * Glories of 

^ According to the curious tale entitled the 'Death of Fergus mac 
Leide' (SiL Gad, trans, pp. 269-285), Fergus became King of 
Ulidia (f.^. the south-eastern division of Ulster). In the tale of the 
' Destruction of the Bruidhen DA Choga ' the people propose to elect him 
king of the whole province on the death of Conachar. 

> O'Flaherty's Ogygia^ port iiL chaps. xlvi.-xlviii., Eng. trans, by 
J. Hely. 



Hi THE CUCHULLIN SAGA 

Conachar's Reign *), the stanzas are contradictory, some 
making him son to Cathbad and some to the king of 
Ireland. Nor was Fachtna a fortunate sovereign on 
whom to have fixed as the human father of the Ulster 
king, for Fachtna died, as we have seen, B.C. 136, 
whereas the birth of Conachar is everywhere syn- 
chronised with the date of the birth of our Lord. 
Out of the three remaining accounts of the generation 
of Conachar only one (Stowe MS. No. 992) connects 
him with Fachtna /a/Aa^//, and that as if by an after- 
thought, for the very same piece elsewhere distinctly 
calls him Cathbad's son. It would seem that when 
once his royal descent from a known king of Erin 
had been popularly accepted, it was thought necessary 
by the scribes to introduce it into his birth-stories. 
The dates of his death do not agree any better than 
those of his birth, for Conachar is said to have died 
at the moment of our Lord's Crucifixion, in grief 
for His death ; yet in the fragment of the Annals of 
Tighernach, preserved in Trinity College, Dublin, his 
death is dated B.C. 48. O'Flaherty, evidently observing 
the inconsistency, says * the king came near committing 
suicide, but lived fifteen years after.' 

Among the characters who appear both in the 
romances and in the Annals, are Conaire, son of 
Ederscel, slain in the destruction of Bruidhen di Derga ; 
Lugaid Sriabh 'uDearg ' of the Red Stripes * who 
married Dervorgil, daughter of Ruad, liberated by 
Cuchullin from imminent danger on Rathlin Island 
(* Wooing of Emer,' in/ra, p. 81) and who is said to 
have died of grief on his wife's death.^ This Lugaid 

^ ' He reigned twenty-five years, and died of a conceipt he took of the 
death of his wife Dervorgil,' Ann. Clonmacnois. 



INTRODUCTION liii 

is represented as the close friend of Cuchullin. At 
the moment when he was called to occupy the vacant 
throne of Tara he is found watching by the sickbed 
of the hero, who thereupon rises to instruct him in 
the duties of a prince {infra^ p. 231). 

Tales relating to different personages of the same 
name have evidently become associated with Lugaid, 
as it is impossible to reconcile the conflicting character- 
istics ascribed to him. He is probably distinct from 
Lugaid son of Cur6i who slew Cuchullin, certainly from 
Lugaid mac Nois, although the scribe in the * Wooing of 
Emer ' appears to confuse them. 

These, with Fachtna fathach and Congal cldringnech 
(A.M. 5016-503 1 ), are the only members of the cycle 
mentioned in the Annals of the Four Masters. 

Possibly we may add to our list of real person- 
ages Meave, the powerful and magnificent Queen of 
Connacht. She was daughter of Eochaid feidleach^ 
the King of Erin who made war upon and slew 
Fachtna fathach. The stories concerning her are 
much confused. She seems to have been thrice 
married, />. to Conachar and to two Ailells. At the 
time of the TAin b6 Cuailgne she is wife of Ailell or 
Oilioll, prince of Connacht, and is bent upon revenging 
herself upon her former husband, Conachar. For this 
purpose she invited Fergus with many Ultonian princes 
to her court when he was driven from the kingdom of 
Ulster. She was one of a large family, her brothers 
being Breas, Nar, and Lothar ; her sisters Mumhain, 
Eile, Deirdre, Clothra, and Eithne. The legends 
of their deeds and intermarriages are as confused as 
those of the earlier Greek deities. Meave's own family 
was even more numerous, and some powerful tribes 



liv THE CUCHULLIN SAGA 

claim descent from her. The character and personah'ty 
of Meave are drawn on the largest and boldest lines. 
Beautiful, ambitious and imperious, she is equally fearless 
in forming her designs, and unscrupulous in executing 
them. She is a splendid type of the barbarian chief- 
tainess, ruling her people with the craft of an Elizabeth, 
and leading them to war with the courage of a Boadicea. 
Though the conception of her has probably expanded 
with time, it is difficult to believe that she had no original 
in actual life. Curiously enough, this terrible personage is 
remembered by the Irish as the queen of the fairies. She 
is probably the Queen Mab of Spenser's Faerie Queene, 
The Annals of Clonmacnois, which are specially 
explicit on matters relating to the district through which 
the Shannon runs, give a lengthy account of Meave. 

{c) Mythology 

Nevertheless, though a few of the personages men- 
tioned in our tales are to be met with in the ancient 
semi-historic records, it is plain that we are dealing 
with a purely mythological cycle, some of the heroes 
of which have been loosely connected with the history 
of the country, but for whose achievements and careers, 
as a whole, there is no place in the Annals of Ireland. 

What is even of more importance is to note that the 
pedigree of all the chief heroes is traced up to the 
Tuatha d6 Danann,^ and over and above this, that a 
special interference of these gods is recorded in the 
birth-stories of the greater champions of the cycle. 
From the accompanying table it will be seen that both 
' Cathbad and Ross ruadh^ from whom the larger number 

1 Yet, according to the Annals, there is a lapse of 1500 years between the 
epoch of the Tuaiha d^ Danann and that of the Ulster cycle of heroes. 



INTRODUCTION Iv 

of the heroes are descended, are directly connected with 
the earher gods by their marriage with Maga, daughter 
of Angus na Brugh, son of the Dagda. 

THE RED BRANCH. 

TABLE I. (Descendants of Maga by Ross ruadh^ * the Red.') 
Head of the House, Rudhraigh (Rory or Rury). 

i 

Ross ru€uih (* the Red '), m. i. Maga. 2. Roy or R6ich. 
I 3. Matamuirsce. 3 sons. 

by Maga. by Rdich or Roy. by Matamuirsce of 

I I Connacht. 



I. Fachtna//r//iar^ 2. Fergus mac R6ich. 3. Cairpre niafir 

K. of Tara. 

I 
Ere. 

TABLE II. (Descendants of Maga, d. of Angus na Bnigh, 
by Cathbad.) 

Cathbad 

I • 

I 'I 

by Maga, 3 daughters. by Nessa. 

r n 1 — [ 

I Dechtire (m. 2 Ailbe (m. 3 Findchoem. Conachar 

Sualtam). Usnach)! I (called also 

I I I son to 

CuchuUin. Naisi, Ainle, Conall cemach, Fachtna 

Arden. fcUhach), 

TABLE III. (Descendants of Maga by QdAx^x^ cendearg.) 

Cairbre cendearg, ' Red-head.' 

I , 

4 sons.^ 

^ See Old Poem in Irischt Texie^ zweite Serif, p. 178, and Gaelic 
Soc. Pub., 1S08, pp. 26-27, <^d .^fV. Gad,^ Extracts xii. xxv., p. 527. 



Ivi THE CUCHULLIN SAGA 

Conachar is called a dla tabnaide or terrestrial god 
of the Ultonians in LU. lOi b. \ and Dechtire, his sister, 
the mother of Cuchullin, is called a goddess ; Cuchullin vie 
dea dechtiriy * the son of the goddess Dechtire/ LL. 123d. 

Cuchullin is, throughout his career, placed under the 
direct care of Lugh latnfada just as later, in Ossianic 
legend, Diarmuid O'Duibhne is represented as under 
the special guardianship of Angus, who watches over 
his career and succours him in time of danger. But 
more than this, Lugh appears to Dechtire, Cuchullin's 
mother, and tells her that he himself is her little child ; 
i,e, that the child is .a re-incarnation of himself. In the 
version of the story which we give below, Lugh is re- 
presented as the father of the boy, but it amounts to 
the same thing. An expression applied to Cuchullin 
in the 'Wooing of Emer' affords us a clue to the 
popular belief regarding the re-birth of demi-gods. The 
people of Ulster, it is said, wished to provide a wife for 
Cuchullin, * knowing that his re-birth would be of him- 
self,' i.e. that only from himself Could another such as 
he have origin. 

When Cuchullin is inquired of by Emer, in the same 
piece, as to his birth and rearing, he makes no mention 
whatever of Sualtach or Sualtam his reputed mortal 
father, but points proudly to his honourable descent 
from Lugh. 

Though, as we have already pointed out, the accounts 
have become confused and sbme have been lost, there is 
no doubt at all as to the purpose of these tales. They 
agree in setting the champions outside the course of 
ordinary human existence, and point them out as 
beings of supernatural origin and possessed of divine 
powers. The significance of Cuchqllin's association 



INTRODUCTION Ivii 

with Lugh lamfada * long-hand ' cannot be over- 
looked. Without wishing unduly to press the tales 
into the service of mythological speculation, the position 
of Lugh among the early gods is clear. The subject 
has been treated at great length by Professor Rhys,^ 
and whether the whole of his mythological theories be 
accepted or not, the Welsh and Irish tales which he has 
thrown together regarding this important and impres- 
sive personage leave no doubt at all as to the manner in 
which the early romanticists regarded this god. Let us 
take two passages from the Irish tales belonging to the 
first or Tuatha d^ Danann cycle in which Lugh figures 
prominently. In the * Fate of the Children of Tuireann/ 
we read that * One day a fair was assembled by the king 
of Eire upon the hill of Balor, now called Uisneach, and 
they were not long there when they saw an army and a 
goodly host coming towards them directly, and in the 
van there was one young man high in authority over 
all ; and like to the setting sun was the radiance of his 
face and forehead, and they were unable to gaze upon 
his countenance on account of its splendour. And this 
is who it was, Lugh lamhflicida loinnbheimionach^ "the 
long-handed, of strong blows," and the fairy cavalcade 
from the Land of Promise, and his own foster-brothers, 
namely, the Clann Manannain.' He is represented as 
riding on the steed of Manannan mac Lir (/>. the sea-god), 
which was ' swift as the bleak cold wind of spring,' and 
clad in the armour and the helmet of Manannan, so 
that he could not be wounded under, over, or through 
it ; and 'when the Cathbarr was off him the appearance 
of his face and front was as brilliant as the sun on a dry 
summer's day.' Lugh is represented as having been 

* Sec Hibb^t Lectures for 1886, pp. 390-431. 



Iviii THE CUCHULLIN SAGA 

brought up in the court of Manannan, here called the 
Land of Promise. Further on in the same tale we read 
that when Lugh went forward westward from Tara to 
meet the Formorians/then Breas, the son of Balor, arose 
and said, " I wonder that the sun is rising in the west 
to-day, and in the east every other day." "It were 
better that it were so," said the druids. "What else 
(than the sun) is it ? " said he. " It is the radiance of 
the face of Lugh latnfadal^ they said.' ^ 

In this extract the meaning is clear. Lugh's brilli- 
ance, and his coming out of the Land of Manannan {i.e, 
the sun rising from the ocean), with his daily appearance 
in the east, point him out definitely as the Sun-god. 
His power in smiting his enemies, his contention with 
the 'grim and ill-looking band' who so long had 
oppressed Erin, and of whom all stood in such dread, is 
evidently the bursting of the sun-rays through the mists 
and vapours lying over the land. 

The account of Lugh in the * Second Battle of Moytura ' 
confirms this belief. There came to the door of Tara 
in the reign of Nuada of the Silver Hand a young 
warrior, fair and shapely, with a king's trappings on 
him, in front of a band of followers. The doorkeeper 
asks, * Who is there ? ' * Here is Lugh lonnannsclech^ 
son of Cian, son of Dian-cecht and of Ethne, daughter 
of Balor.' He goes by the name of Samilddnach, i,e, 
'one possessing many arts at once.' The doorkeeper 
then questions him on his powers ; * for,' he says, ' no 
one without an art enters Tara.** One by one the 

* The * Fate of the Children of Tuireann,* Soc. for the Presentation of 
the Irish Language, pp. 70, 71, 82, 83. 

* * Second Battle of Moytura/ ed. W. Stokes, Rev. Celt, vol. xii. 
Compare the Stories of Kilhwch and Olwen, and Manawyddan, son of 
Llyr, in Guest's Mabinogion, pp. 244, 400-401. 



INTRODUCTION lix 

visitor claims the knowledge of every art known to his 
day, and protests his complete mastery over them all. 
His pretensions having been put to the test and proved, 
he is brought in and soon after placed in the kingly 
seat in order that he may give counsel to the assembled 
nobles. Here we have the Sun-god in his familiar 
aspect as the bringer of arts and knowledge to men ; 
sometimes identified with and sometimes distinct from 
the bringer of fire and light The connection between 
fire and knowledge, that is, between physical and intel- 
lectual light and heat, is a natural one. 

Cuchullin is the offspring of Lugh ; or rather he is 
an avatar of Lugh, for he is, in a sense, Lugh himself 
re-born. 

He possesses many of the attributes of Lugh, and is 
endowed beyond all other heroes of the cycle with 
beauty of person, strength, dexterity and prowess. 

Already in his early childhood he is singled out by 
his extraordinary and precocious developments ; there 
is, indeed, throughout his whole life, a strange mixture 
of the child and the hero in the god-man. His first 
boy-feats are performed at the age of seven, when 
already he is able to combat and destroy warriors of 
renown ; his fight with the fierce hound whence he 
derived his name was accomplished at six years ; his 
age during the lengthened and exhausting contest of 
•the Tiin B6 Cuailgne is usually given as seventeen 
years. Llew in the Mabinogion stories ^ has the same 
abnormal development As a new-born babe he flings 
aside the sheet that enfolds him ; at a year's growth he 
has the size of a child of two years ; a year later he is 
a big lad. As Lugh is endowed with excellence in all 

^ See ' M&th ab Mathonwy,' Guest's Mabitiogi&n, p. 422. 



Ix THE CUCHULLIN SAGA 

arts, so Cuchullin has been taught the best lore of his 
time, and skill in every accomplishment.^ 

But besides these things which he shared, though in 
an excessive degree, with other heroes of the Saga, 
there are peculiar and very extraordinary appearances 
and qualities assigned to him alone. It is noteworthy 
that, when unmoved by any special cause of excitation, 
Cuchullin is represented as of unimposing appearance. 
He did not attract notice from those who met him 
casually, and, until they felt his power, the champions 
of the adverse party were often inclined to jeer at and 
deride his pretensions to prowess. In the Tdin we find 
him at one time obliged to blacken a moustache with 
blackberry juice in order to present a more manly 
appearance ; the wood-cutter chats to him about ' that 
terrific hero, Cuchullin,' without the least suspicion that 
he is holding converse with the hero himself; Natch- 
rantal scoffs at the idea of taking out weapons to fight 
with a beardless boy; Meave is visibly disappointed 
when she first comes face to face with the champion 
who has been holding her forces at bay through weeks 
of combat, and killing them by the hundred merely 
with his look. 

We -should be satisfied to ascribe this insistence on 
his youthful and harmless appearance merely to the 
desire to heighten the effect of his valour and exploits by 
contrast ; but the same impression is also conveyed in 
other tales where there is no occasion for any such device. 
In the Mesca Ulad (p. 29), for instance, he is called 
*a little black- browed man, greatly resplendent' ; and 
in the 'Wooing of Emer* he is described as *a sad, 
dark man, comeliest of the men of Erin.* In striking 

* Sec * Wooing of Emer,' infray p. 66. 



INTRODUCTION Ixi 

contrast to this description of him is his appearance 
when under strong excitement or in the presence of a 
powerful enemy : then his whole person undergoes an 
extrsflprdinary change ; his very look destroys his foes, 
not by ones nor twos, but by hundreds; his person 
expands until his own friends cannot recognise him ; 
he grows prodigious, terrific ; he is known as ' the 
Distorted,' ' the Madman ' from Emain Macha. This 
distortion comes upon him whenever he is confronted 
with an obstacle that he appears to be unable to over- 
come, as, for instance, when he tries three times to cross 
the bridge leading to the abode of Scathach ; or else in 
presence of a foe apparently too strong for him. In 
the * Great Defeat on the Plain of Muirthemne' we 
read that as he circled round the men of Erin before 
delivering his fearful onslaught * upon the kingly cham- 
pion, upon Sualtach's son, Cuchullin, his frenzy and 
distortion came. He made of himself a fearful and i 
a terrible being: like a tree standing in a swollen stream } 
his sinews quivered, and from crown to sole every limb / 
and joint trembled like a bulrush in mid-torrent. A 
fearful cry of anger rang out from him. His heels, his 
calves, his hams, turned and came in front of him ; his 
feet, his shins, turned and were behind him.* This 
strange conception of the body twisted behind before 
seems to have been a common Irish expression denoting 
great bodily swiftness or energy; we find the same 
description applied to Lebarcham, the swift messenger 
of Conchobar, in the * Siege of Howth,' and to Dornolla 
or * Bigfist ' in the * Wooing of Emen' The prodigious 
expansion of the body seems, however, to be a pecu- 
liarity of Cuchullin alone, as is also the special word 
riastradh used to denote it In the Tdin b6 Cuailgne 



Ixii THE CUCHULLIN SAGA 

(sec. 68) a full and fearful description is given of his 
distortion. It is therefore unnecessary to repeat it 
here. It should be carefully compared with the account 
of his ordinary appearance given in the passage imme- 
diately following. It is evident that neither of these 
exaggerated descriptions is applicable to any ordinary 
man, nor is there anything like them in the passages 
relating to the Tuatha d^ Danann. CuchuUin, the Sun 
hero, holds a place intermediate between human beings 
and gods; and his powers and appearances, though 
more prodigious than either, were as peculiar to himself 
as were the prodigies of Herakles in Greek legend. 
The contrast between the sun on an ordinary day, 
set solitary in the universe, small of body, yet flooding 
the world with light, and of his appearance when 
bursting forth in summer glory, or rising and setting 
in the radiant hues of dawn or evening, could hardly 
be more poetically set forth than in the account of 
Cuchullin as a * little dark man ' who is yet * comeliest 
among the men of Erin,' and such a description as the 
following from the Tdin of his glory at special moments : 
* Over his head, among the aerial clouds, poured showers 
and sparks of ruddy fire, the manifestations of the 
seething of his savage wrath. Round about it, his hair 
became tangled, as it had been the branches of a red 
thorn-bush stuffed into a strongly-fenced gap . . . Out 
of its centre a dusky jet of blood shot upward : taller 
than the mast of a great ship it arose, and was scattered 
to the four quarters of the heaven ; it formed on high 
a magic mist of gloom like to the smoky pall that 
drapes a regal dwelling what time a king at night-fall 
of a winter's day draws nigh to it.* 

We are expressly told that it was at eventide that 



INTRODUCTION Ixiii 

the hero assumed this 'magic-wrought disguise' and 
that in full splendour he appeared next day before the 
women of Erin. 

Take again the poetic description of the sun shining 
in his mid-day strength, symbolised by Cuchullin's 
appearance before the women. The three crowns of 
hair are a fine poetic simile expressive of the brilliance 
of the sun's noon-tide rays. * Three crowns of hair he 
had : next his skin, brown ; in the middle, crimson ; 
that outside formed, as it were, a diadem of gold, for 
like the shining of yellow gold was each glittering, 
curling, beauty-coloured thread as free and loose it fell 
down and hung between his shoulders. About his 
neck were an hundred linklets of red gold that flashed 
again, with pendants hanging down from them.' ^ 

Beside this we may put the remark so often made 
of Cuchullin that 'blindness befell all women who loved 
him,* which may possibly have reference to the difficulty 
of gazing directly at the* brilliant face of the sun. 

It will be noticed that this distortion of Cuchullin is 
associated with Lugh : * some do say that there Lugh 
mac Ethlenn fought for Cuchullin.' We must now 
refer to another passage in the Tdin in which Lugh 
interferes directly for the beneflt of his prototype and 
descendant In the shades of evening, after a fight 
more terrific than usual, Lugh descries a splendid 
warrior approaching them. He passes right athwart 
the camp of the men of Erin, unperceived by any. 
Cuchullin rejcognises in the advancing warrior one of 
his fairy kiki Come to succour him. He is right ; it is 
Lugh mac Ethlenn, who, conscious of the greatness of 

1 Cf. the description of Si^Ta, a Vedic sun-god, Rig- Veda, i. 35, 2, 10 ; 
ibid, X. 139, I. 



Ixiv THE CUCHULLIN SAGA 

his travail and the length of time during which he has 
taken no rest, is come for three days and three nights 
to occupy his place while Cuchullin takes much needed 
slumber. For three days accordingly * Cuchullin slept a 
torpid sleep*; *for from the Monday immediately before 
Samhain to the Wednesday next after the feast of 
Bridget (/>. from November to February), save for a 
brief watch at mid-day, he never slept ; and even that 
was taken as he leant upon his spear, his 4iead resting 
on his fist, and his fist closed round his spear-shaft, as 
it lay upon his knee.' 

The restlessness and continual movement of the sun 
seems to be here referred to, while the long torpor of 
the champion, which was immediately succeeded by his 
most terrific distortion, might well embody a savage 
conception of the sun under eclipse, followed by the 
strange appearances that it assumes when passing out 
of it and returning to its normal condition. Eclipses 
of the sun have always deeply impressed the savage 
mind. 

Notice also that Cuchullin's most deadly fight in the 
Tdinb6Cuailgne is with the twenty-seven sons of Calatin, 
after slaying whom, we read elsewhere, he never feared 
enemy again. He is indeed very nearly overcome by 
. them. Howbeit, in the final battle of Muirthemne he 
was again brought face to face with the same deadly 
foe; six sons and a daughter having been born to 
Calatin after the destruction of the others. These 
hideous and crooked beings, docked by Meave's order 
of their right legs and left arms, surround and endeavour 
to entrap the hero. We read that * the three gloomy, 
black, and ever-grumbling, crazy things did speedily 
and with alacrity, in company with the wind's swift 



INTRODUCTION Ixt 

clouds, travel to Emain. There, out of light and 
fluttering grass-stems of the noxious puff-balls and of 
the bonny-coloured oaken foliage, they upon the plain 
evoked armies and battalions, so that Cuchullin heard 
their marshalled armies shout, as it were spoiling the 
fort and destroying it' 

It is hardly possible not to see in this paragraph a 
description of the struggle between the rays of the sun 
and the noxious vapours, dense clouds, and threatening 
mists that surround and endeavour to extinguish it. 
The gathering of the * armies of the storm,' apparently 
formed out of nothing, 'fluttering grass-stems and 
noxious puff-balls,' is most imaginatively pictured, and 
the dense gloom that settled over CuchulHn's spirit as 
he sought, but was withheld, from dissipating the intan- 
gible foe, is a very poetic description of the sun's efforts 
to dispel a heavy vapour. It is an even more original 
and realistic conception than that of Beowulf fighting 
the dragon of the Marsh-lands, in its Anglo-Saxon 
parallel. 

Bearing upon the same idea is the frequent mention 
of the terrific heat given off in times of excitement 
from Cuchullin's body. In the Tain we read that after 
a great fall of snow which had reduced the whole 
district to one dead level, Cuchullin is found spending 
the morning refreshing himself, in very much reduced 
clothing, by allowing the wind and sun tp play upon 
his body. * He had discarded the twenty-seven cun- 
ningly prepared under-shirts which with cords and 
ropes were secured about him ; and this he did to 
escape the difficulty that would arise in throwing them 
off should his paroxysm come to boiling-point and he 
still clothed in them. Anon, and for thirty feet round 

e 



Ixvi THE CUCHULLIN SAGA 

his body, the snow melted with the intense heat 
generated in the hero's person ; his charioteer durst 
not indeed come nigh him/ Again, when Cuchullin is 
returning to Emain Macha at the close of his day of 
boy-feats, they are obliged to seize him and plunge 
him into three successive vats of water, so great is the 
physical heat of his frame. * In the first vessel, the 
heat generated by his immersion was such that both 
staves and hoops flew asunder instantly. In the second, 
the water escaped by boiling over ; in yet a third, the 
water still was hotter than one might bear with ease.' 
After the third immersion, his fury having died down 
within him, he blushes a beautiful pinky red all over 
from crown to sole. If we were inclined to drive the 
theory far, we should regard this as the symbol of the 
sinking Sun passing beneath the waters of the ocean 
and re-appearing in the gentler hues of dawn, but there 
is always a danger of pushing an allegory beyond its 
natural limits. It is remarkable also that one among 
Cuchullin's gessa or * tabus ' was * to see the horses of 
Manannan mac Lir (the Irish sea-god), or to hear the 
harp of Maner's son play soothingly and sweetly.' 
This reference to the ocean-god seems a most poetic 
manner of expressing the approaching extinction of 
the sun when, overcome at last by the aerial warfare 
of Calatin's children, the fierce offspring of cloud and 
storm, he sinks down at night beneath the ocean 
wave. 

In dealing with a very early and primitive mythology, 
such as that which meets us in these tales, we must, 
however, beware of systematising overmuch. We must 
carefully remember that the savage had no system ; he 
did not construct a theory and write stories to instil 



INTRODUCTION Ixvii 

it into the minds of his race. On the contrary, the 
contradictions and inconsistencies that we meet with 
in the early mythology of every nation show how con- 
fused was the primitive conception of life, and of its 
connection with the visible and invisible world. The 
savage, facing the great problems of existence, was 
unable to construct any theory that would satisfactorily 
account for them.. A few momentary suggestions of 
the ways and causes of nature, scant glimmerings of an 
analogy between animate and inanimate things, were 
all that he possessed ; nor shall we help to elucidate 
these crude and simple ideas by reading backwards 
into them the mythological ideas of nations in an 
advanced state of philosophical thought. The tales 
with which we are dealing are not put forth by the 
brain of a philosopher to support a system ; they are 
fragmentary legends, never meant to be part of a 
definite theory of life, but woven by different poets 
around certain familiar personages, who represented 
to them only in a dim and uncertain way mytho- 
logical ideas. 

Nevertheless, almost all nations have passed through 
stages of development running broadly along the same 
lines, and if we can reach by any means the concep- 
tions of savage nations at similar points in their growth, 
we shall find certain parallel ideas common to a large 
number of them. Surrounded by much the same con- 
ditions of life, provided only with the same limited 
equipment of knowledge, intermixing little with nations 
more advanced than themselves, tribes and peoples, 
like children, start with a stock of ideas that is almost 
uniform all the world over. They have no accumula- 
tions of varied wisdom reaped from books or from 



Ixviii THE CUCHULLIN SAGA 

intercourse with the outer world ; they have only the 
maxims, often inaccurate and always meagre, learned 
by their forefathers in the school of practical experi- 
ence. 

Thus, without any forcing of a theory, we can discover 
in the early tales of all nations certain broad and simple 
guesses at the meaning of things, and certain shrewd 
analogies as to their nature which have a similarity to 
those of other nations at the same stage of intellectual 
advance. Therefore in treating of Cuchullin as an 
impersonation of the sun, or, in the technical terms of 
mythology, as a Sun Hero, we are but presenting him 
in a light that the very early mythology of all nations 
has familiarised us with, and that seems clearly borne 
out by a consideration of his extraordinary personality 
and of the abnormal events of his career. It is only 
when we try to press into the service of our theory all 
or a too large number of the episodes of the cycle, that 
the analogy is apt to lead us astray. A Saga grows 
irregularly, it is not made upon a plan ; nor do its parts 
always tally exactly one with another. 

Before we leave the vague subject of Irish mythology, 
we permit ourselves on these general lines to hazard a 
guess as to the significance of its main outline — a guess 
suggested by the beliefs of other Aryan peoples at an 
early stage of growth. 

It is difficult for dwellers in towns, on whom street 
lamps shed a brighter light than the stars of heaven, 
to conceive of the large space occupied in the early 
imagination of mankind by the broad expanse of the 
sky spread over his head. The multitudinous host of 
heaven and the ever-changing moon by night; the 
restless course of the sun by day, shining above him 



INTRODUCTION Ixix 

unimpeded by the innumerable objects that in urban 
and civilised life distract our gaze, these things 
assumed to man in the pastoral stage an importance 
that we can now hardly realise. On the mind of a 
roving people, pasturing their flocks and herds across 
unbroken stretches of country, passing their days in 
tending cattle, their nights beneath an open sky, the 
two ideas of the heavens above and the flocks below 
became deeply engraven. On these two things their 
whole existence depended. 

A comparison, simple and natural, sprang up between 
them.* The sky by day, presided over by a beneficent 
deity who fructified, warmed, and cheered the earth, 
fulfilling the two primal needs of existence, light and 
warmth, they likened to a powerful productive bull ; ; 
the sky by night, glittering with its thousand stars, ^ 
shedding upon the parched earth soft fertilising dews, 
and presided over by a mild and gentle goddess, they 
likened to a milk-giving cow. In reference to this 
conception of the luminous aspect of the sky as a sea 
of milk, we speak still of the Milky Way. 

As time went on, these simple primary ideas sub- 
divided themselves, and became more complex. The 
sun, powerful as he was supposed to be, sufiered at 
times strange variations ; the clouds and mist, so thin 
and feeble in themselves, when they gathered together 
their forces against him, stripped him of his glory and 
his strength : before them he sank into decrepitude, he 
became almost extinct' At times, rare indeed, but 

^ The Greek word gi for ' earth * and the Sanskrit go for cow were 
probably identical The Sanskrit word vrishabha^ i,e, 'a bull,' is derived 
from a root which indicates fertility. 

' See the fine descriptive passage in the Book of Job xxxvi. 27-33 ; 



Ixx THE CUCHULLTN SAGA 

recurring at unknown intervals, and therefore the more 
terrific to the savage mind, the sun suffered for a time 
a more or less complete eclipse ; their god disappeared 
in sudden darkness. Beyond all this, there was the 
regularly recurring phenomenon, in itself most mys- 
terious and awful, of day becoming night, the sinking 
of the sun in fiery splendour across the prairie or into 
the waters of the ocean, with its re-appearance in an 
opposite quarter of the heavens at break of day. All 
these things, to which the unscientific mind had no 
clue although they were constantly repeated before the 
eyes, were to the primitive man as daily miracles, filling 
him with fresh awe at the greatness and mystery of his 
deity. By degrees, in his efforts to explain these com- 
plex phenomena, his deity became more defined ; we 
find a black and a white bull, or a black bull and white 
heifer, as the presiding genius of day and night respec- 
tively. In the head of the bull are a thousand eyes, 
the sparkling stars of night ; in his hand are flashing 
swords, and his voice is as the sound of thunder ; these 
are the rays of the sun, and the bolts and lightnings of 
heaven. The gods of light and darkness are engaged 
in deadly conflict : unceasingly they contend for mastery, 
pursuing each other round the world. 

In Indian mythology,^ Indra, the sun, is represented 
in one aspect as a great bull. He leads forth the 
cows, i>. the days, each day being conceived of as a 
cow, dark or bright-coloured. They walk slowly across 

xxxrii. 1*24 (Revised Version), of the coming up of a storm and the re- 
appearance of the sun after its dispersion. 

^ Cf. Mythologie Zoologique^ par Angelode Gul)ernatis, tomei. chap, i., 
* La Vache et le Taureau. * Paris, 1 874. Max Muller's Chips from a German 
Workshop^ p. 100, and Origin atid Growth of Religion ^ pp. 201-212, 240- 
241, 279, 290; Rig- Veda, iii. 31, 6; ibid, x. 75, 3, 4; ibid. i. 54, 4. 



INTRODUCTION Ixxi 

the bright pasture-ground of the earth and sky, dropping 
from their udders a fertilising milk upon the thirsty 
earth. Indra's powers are prodigious : he can eat at one 
time enough food and drink to arrive at the plenitude 
of his powers. The hunger and thirst of the heroes is 
always proportioned to the magnitude of the deeds they 
have to perform. The sharpened horns of Indra are the 
thunder, and he bellows like the wind. As a bull 
he has a thousand horns, and the thunder of Indra has 
a thousand points.^ 

Now, the great Irish epic of the Tdin b6 Cuailgne is 
a contest in which two powerful Bulls, the Donn or 
Brown (dark) Bull, and the Finnbennach or White- 
horned play the chief part. An exactly parallel 
description is given of the Donn, to that which 
Indian mythology gives of Indra. The Donn is of 
terrific strength and size. On his back fifty little boys 
could every evening play their games. He moves 
about accompanied by fifteen or fifty heifers. His 
ferocity and violence are so great that when he is 
driven into a narrow pass, he revenges himself by 
trampling his keeper to death, and treading his. body 
thirty feet down into the earth. He has frequent 
meetings with the Morrigu, or goddess of war, who 
gives him counsel. 

Associated with him is a White-horned Bull of 
almost equal powers. Why, when first we meet with 
these symbolic cattle, the Finnbennach should be 
found in the west among the cattle of Meave, and 
the Dark Bull in the east among the kine of Fiachna 

^ Cf. the Dagda's big feast in. the 'Second Battle of Moytura'; the 
huge size of Conachar's vat ; the food-capacity of Fergus mac Rdich, etc. 
Cuchullin's rapid development corresponds to that of Indra. 



Izxii THE CUCHULLIN SAGA 

• 

mac Daire is an anomaly that we do not attempt to 
explain. 

The account of the final battle of these two Bulls, 
given at the close of the Tiin, is terrific. The Donn, 
after trampling the Finnbennach to death, scatters its 
parts over the provinces of Ireland, and returns, head 
in air, to its original owner and home. Here, after 
striking terror into the minds of all who encounter him, 
and destroying all who come in his way, the Bull, 
placing his back to a hillock, with fearful bellowing, 
vomits up his heart through his mouth, and so expires, 
pouring out ' black mountains of dark-red gore.' 

How Fiachna and Meave came into possession of 
these two remarkable Bulls is related in the curious 
old tale, called the * Generation of the Two Swineherds,'* 
in which the transmigrations of these two wonderful 
kine are set forth. 

Once they had been swineherds belonging to the 
Tuatha d6 Danann gods, Bodb or Bove, king of the 
sidA of Munster, and Ochall ocAae, king of the sidA of 
Connacht, respectively. They had been successively 
transformed into two ravens, two sea-monsters, two 
warriors, two demons, two worms or animalculae, and 
finally into two kine. As animalculae they had taken 
to the water, one in Brunnen Nardn Garad in Connacht, 
the other in Glais Cruind in Cuailgne. There they 
were found respectively by Queen Meave and Fiachna 
mac Daire, admired, preserved, and nourished by them. 
The beautifully coloured beast which Meave holds 
in her hand, having caught him up in a vessel of water, 
speaks to her, and tells her that he has been transformed 

^ 'De Chophur in da Muccida,' Irische Texte, dritte Serie, Hefl i. 
pp. 230-278. 



INTRODUCTION Ixxiii 

into numerous shapes. He concludes by bidding her 
marry Ailell, promising that he shall not get the 
upper hand over her. The same day Fiachna converses 
with the other animal, who tells him that in their future 
form as oxen a great war will take place between him 
and the other creature. All which falls out as he has 
said. The piece ends with a florid description of the 
splendour of these two Bulls. None like them had ever 
before been seen in Ireland : their horns were adorned 
with gold and silver ; their bellowings exceeded those 
of any other kine. A song in their praise concludes the 
tract After asserting the fury and power of the Bull 
of Cuailgne, it continues : 

* With bull-like front, 
With the pace of a billow, 
With the pride of kings, 

With the loose plunging of bears. 
With the fury of dragons. 
With the innpetus of robbers, 
With the savagery of lions,' etc. 

And of the Finnbennach : — 

* An ox was this white-headed, white-footed 
Savage, red, blood- red, 

As though he were dyed in red. 

As though he were bathed in blood. 

As though he were rubbed in crimson,' etc. 

Now the central point in the heroic mythology of 
Ireland is the long-continued struggle between the 
forces of Meave in alliance with the south and centre 
of Erin, against the forces of Ulster, for the possession 
of the Dark Bull. * The kine of Ulster are mine,' says 
Cuchullin, and the Bull also came from his country ; 
nevertheless Meave determines to carry off the Bull, and 



Ixxiv THE CUCHULLIN SAGA 

she finally, after months of warfare, succeeds in doing 
so. Such a warfare for such an object seems on merely 
natural grounds inadequate as the central point of an 
old mythology, even taking into consideration the 
importance attached in purely pastoral epochs to the 
possession of cattle ; but, as a symbol of the struggle 
between day and night, or between summer and winter, 
it assumes a new meaning. We incline to the latter 
supposition, as coinciding with the advance of Meave's 
forces, the forces of darkness and destruction, from the 
western land, the land of death, during the winter, 
a time generally avoided by Irish armies in setting 
out for a campaign. It also explains the length 
and tediousness of the struggle, and in this light the 
long debility of the warriors of Ulster may have a 
significance as suggesting the decay and sleep of nature 
during the winter season, and the solitary and con- 
tinuous struggle of the sun, represented by Cuchullin, 
to break up its chains. 

It is, perhaps, worth remarking that one of the five 
prohibitions of the King of Ulster, mentioned in the 
Book of Rights, is * to celebrate the feast of the flesh of 
the Bull of Daire-mic-Daire/ which might possibly refer 
to some permanent festival that had been established 
in connection with the Raid for the possession of the 
Bull. 

Let us look once again at Indian mythology and see 
how close in many respects is the analogy. The feeling 
of sacredness attaching to cows grew so strong that 
it became in India a crime to kill a cow ; black cows 
appear in dreams and are sacrificed in the funeral 
ceremonies of the Indians ; the dark realms of Yama, 
king of the dead, contained black cows that gave milk. 



INTRODUCTION Ixxv 

In the Vedic heaven are three sorts of cows, the storm- 
cow, moon-cow, and dawn-cow.^ The dawn-cow is red 
and horned, it sheds prosperity upon man. The pastoral- 
god, Krishna, is black during the night, but fair in the 
dawn. He is the most popular of the Brahminical 
gods.^ Rima accomplishes the same feats as Indra ; 
he gives proof of extraordinary strength in youth, and 
slays the monster. The combat of R&ma is the struggle 
between day and night, and also between summer and 
winter. Rima in the opening of the Rdmdyana says 
to his brother, *See, O Lakshmana, Mirica is come 
with his following, making a noise like thunder and 
accompanied by the visitor of night, Sub&hu ; you will 
see them to-day like a mass of heavy clouds, which in 
an instant I shall disperse as the wind dissipates the 
clouds.' At times the Bull disappears: he is repre- 
sented by a young man, or the Bull is led or slain by the 
man. The bull, Indra, is often figured as a beautiful 
young man ; Mitra • also, in Vedic mythology, is in one 
aspect represented" as a handsome youth holding in his 
left hand the horns of a bull, and in his right the sacri- 
ficial knife. Ha4 the early Gael put forth his mytholo- 
gical ideas in sculpture like the Greek, or painted them 
in frescoes and pictures like the Egyptian or Indian, he 
would probably have represented CuchuUin in exactly 
the same manner, but without the knife ; for there is no 
mention in these romances of prayer or of sacrifice of 
any kind. Other nations share the same legends, in 

^ Rig-Veda, vii. 77. 

' Gubernatis, Mythologie Zoologique^ tome i. p. 68. The w ord Krishna 
means black. 

' Mitra is the day or the morning sun. Alharva-Veda, xiii. 3. 13. Rig- 
Veda, V. 62. 8. 



Ixxvi THE CUCHULLIN SAGA 

which a bull and a heifer appear under the anthropo- 
morphosed forms of a handsome young man and a 
beautiful girl, but we need not here follow them in 
detail. The same characteristics belong to the hero 
in nearly all these legends. They are precisely the 
characteristics of the personality of Cuchullin, 'the 
Champion of the Kine of Magh Breagh.' Through- 
out he appears as the Solar Hero. He reaches his full 
development at an unnaturally early age, and even as 
a boy of seven years he conquers heroes and performs 
the feats of a prime champion. Small, but comely of 
person, he waxes in conflict to a prodigious size, a halo 
shines from his head, the * bird of valour ' flutters over 
him, a furious heat exudes from his body ; he destroys 
armies by his look, he has power in his eyes to blind 
the women of Ulster when they look on him with love. 
His feats are terrific ; he is irresistible both in war and 
in love. He is bound by his gessa to rise before dawn 
falls on Emain Macha ; he is seldom at rest, for his 
energy is untiring. He rides a chariot drawn by a 
black and a grey horse, symbols of day and night He 
himself has caught these famous steeds, which have 
emerged from a magic lake and . return thither on the 
death of their master. On them when caught he 
scours the plain and rises at a leap over the mountains. 
Three times without pausing for breath they carry 
their tamer round the entire circuit of Erin. Such is 
the Irish conception of the Solar Hero. 

Apart from him we find the dark Bull. He careers 
over the earth followed by herds of cows, Le, night 
accompanied by clouds. His bellowing is heard from 
far, his stamping is like the tread of a host in battle. 
The uncivilised man cannot always dissociate cognate 



INTRODUCTION Ixxvii 

ideas ; at times, as in the legend of Europa, he places 
his hero or heroine upon the Bull, or he is leading him 
' by the hand. At other times the Bull has disappeared 
and the hero stands alone, but retaining some of his 
bestial capacities and powers. In Irish myth this is the 
case, but Cuchullin fights with the powers of darkness 
for possession of the Bull, and the powers of darkness 
for the time prevail. After all his struggles and heroic 
deeds Meave wastes Ulster up to the gates of Emain 
Macha and carries off the Bull. But the powers of ill 
succeed only by treachery, and Cuchullin falls at last 
the victim of unworthy wiles, for in fair fight none can 
conquer him. He * sees the horses of Manannan mac 
Lir, which was £^ets to him : he heard the harp of 
Manar's son play soothingly and sweetly, which was 
^ets to him.' 



To gratefully acknowledge the courtesy of the translators 
through whose kindness I have been enabled to throw to- 
gether the following tales, and to thank those friends who 
have aided me with suggestions and advice, is a pleasant task. 
On every hand I have met with the greatest courtesy. 

My thanks are especially due to Dr. Whitley Stokes and Dr. 
Kuno Meyer for permission to re-publish tales contributed by 
them to various publications, and for their kindness in revising 
the proofs ; to M. Louis Duvau and Dr. Ernst Windisch for 
allowing me to re-translate work published by them in French 
and German; and to Standish Hayes O'Grady for placing in 
my hands translations of important tales relating to the Saga, 
hitherto unpublished. To the latter also for drawing up the 
Chart which prefaces this volume, and for suggestions and 
advice. 

I have also to thank Dr. Sigerson for permission to re- 
produce his rendering of *Cuchullin*s Lament for Ferdia,' 
published in Bards of the Gael and Gail] and to acknow- 
ledge the courtesy of M. D'Arbois de Jubainville and Madame 
Bouillon in consenting to the reproduction of work published 
in the Revue Celtique, Mr. Alfred Nutt has made many 
suggestions while the work has been passing through the 
press, for which I have to thank him. 



InU 



THE BIRTH OF CONACHAR 



Abridged and adapted from the longer of the two main accounts of the 
birth of the king, the version followed being that preserved in MS. Stowe 
992, edited and translated in full by Professor Kuno Meyer (^a^. C«//., 
vi. pp. 173-182). The version of the Book of Leinster is substantially 
the same as the portion of the Stowe MS. here given, with omission of the 
poems. 

The various accounts (three in all) which have come down to us 
respecting the birth and parentage of Conachar are briefly summarised 
and discussed by Mr. Alfred Nutt, Voyage of Bran ^ vol. ii. pp. 72-74. 

The one here given was probably that favoured by the story-telling 
class, while the antiquaries preferred that which connected hun with the 
historical annals by making him the son of Fachlna fathach. There are 
distinct hints that there existed an older version than either, ascribing his 
origin to the intervention of the god Lugh lamfada^ the divine parent of 
Cuchullin, but pains have been taken by the transcribers to suppress 
the account of his supernatural origin. Professor Kuno Meyer has 
courteously furnished me with a revised translation of the lay, < Welcome 
the Stranger.' 



THE CUCHULLIN SAGA 



I 



THE BIRTH OF CONACHAR 

• 

CoNACHAR* MAC Nessa was the son of Cathbad the 
Druid, or, as some say, of Fachtna fathach^ king of 
Ulster. He was a great and admirable king, and well 
indeed he might be, for the hour of his birth was the 
hour of the birth of Christ in Palestine. For seven 
years before his birth had the prophets foretold that on 
the same night that Christ should be born, a notable 
chief should be born in Erin. And this is the prophecy 
of his father, of Cathbad, on the night on which he was 
born, to Nessa his wife : — 

O Ness, thou art in peril ; 

Let every one rise at thy birth-giving, 

Beautiful is the colour of thy hands, 

O daughter of Echaid buide. 

Be not sorrowful, O wife, 

A head of hundreds and of hosts 

Of the world will he be, thy son. 



^ We have usually adopted Uie Scottish form of the name, in prefer- 
ence to the Irish form, Conchobhar or Conchubhar, as suggesting the 
pronunciation to the English reader. The modem Anglicised form, 
Conor or Connor, accords ill with the antique tone of the tales. 

8 



4 THE CUCHULLIN SAGA 

The same propitious hour 

To him and to the King of the World. 

Every one will praise him 

For ever to the day of Doom ; 

The same night he will be bom. 

Heroes will not defy him. 

As hostage he will not be taken, 

He and Christ 

In the plain of Inis thou wilt bear him 
Upon the flagstone in the meadow. 
Glorious will be his story ; 
He will be the king of grace, 
He will be the hound of Ulster, 
Who will take pledges of knights : 
Awful will be the disgrace 
When he falls. 

Conachar his name 
Whoso will call him. 
His weapons will be red ; 
He will excel in many routs. 
There he will find his death, 
[Even] in avenging the suffering God. 
Clear will be the track of his sword ' 
Over the slanting plain of Laim.^ 

Conachar was called from the name of his mother, 
mac Nessa. But her name in the beginning had been 
Assa, 'docile' or 'gentle,' and it was on this manner 
that it was changed to Niassa, 'ungentle.' She was 
daughter of Echaid Yellow-heel, king of Ulster, and 
by his desire she had been trained up by twelve tutors, 
to whom she was ever docile and full of teachableness. 

^ See ' The Conception of Conachar,' translated by Prof. Kuno Meyer, 
from Stowe MS., No. 992. Rev, Celt,^ vol. vi. pp. 173-182. 



THE BIRTH OF CONACHAR 5 

But in one night the entire nun^berof her tutors fell by 
the hand of Cathbad the Druid, who from the southern 
part of Ulster went on a martial expedition through 
Erin with three times nine men. He was a man of know- 
ledge and of druidical skill ; moreover, he was endowed 
with great bodily strength. Now the girl had no know- 
ledge who they were who had slain her guardians, but 
from that moment she turned woman-warrior, and with 
her company set out to seek the author of the deed. 
In every district of Erin she destroyed and plundered, 
so that her name was changed to Niassa (Nessa) after 
that, because of the greatness of her prowess and of 
her valour. 

Once upon a time, she had gone upon a quest into a 
wilderness, and her people were preparing food. And 
seeing a clear beautiful spring of water, the maiden 
went off alone to bathe. Now while she was bathing 
Cathbad passed by and saw her. And he bared his 
sword above her head, and stood between the maiden 
and her dress and weapons. 'Spare me!' she cried. 
'Grant then my three requests,' replied the Druid. 
' They are granted,' she said. ' I stipulate that thou be 
loyal to me, and that I have thy friendship, and that 
for so long as I live thou wilt be my one only wife,' 
said he. 'It is better for me to consent than to be 
killed by thee, and my weapon 's gone,' said the maiden. 
Then they and their people unite in one place. In a 
favourable hour, Cathbad proceeded into Ulster, and 
the father of the maiden made them welcome and gave 
them land, namely. Rath Cathbad in the country of 
the Picts near the river Conachar in Crith Rois. By- 
and-by she bore him a son, namely Conachar mac 



6 THE CUCHULLIN SAGA 

Cathbad. Cathbad took the boy to his bosom, and 
gave thanks for him and prophesied to him ; and it 
was then that he uttered this lay : 

Welcome the stranger that has come here 1 
They have told it to you 
He will be the gracious lord 
The son of gentle Cathbad. 

The son of gentle Cathbad, 

And of Ness the young 

Above the fortress of Brig na m-Brat 

My son and my grandson. 

My son and my grandson, 

Grand ornament of the world. 

He will be King of Rath Line, 

He will be a poet, he will be generous. 

He will be a poet, he will be generous, 

He will be the head of warriors beyond the sea, 

My little bird from the Brugh, 

My kid, welcome I 



HOW CONACHAR GAINED THE 
KINGSHIP OVER ULSTER 



Adapted from the Book of Leinstcr account of the glories of Conachar's 
reign (of which 0*Curry has given a summary in MS. Mat. p. 274, and 
Appendix clvi. p. 636), with interpolations from other sources descriptive 
of the prosperity of the kingdom under Conachar, and the causes that 
led to the defection of Fergus mac Rdich. In the war of the Tiin, 
Fergus will be found in the camp of Mcave the Connacht queen, whh 
whom he took refuge after vainly endeavouring to recover his kingdom ; 
but his affection for Ulster is shown in his unwillingness to conduct the 
forces of the enemy against the land of his birth. This portion of the 
work does not correspond to any definite Irish text. 



8 



II 

HOW CONACHAR GAINED THE KINGSHIP 

OVER ULSTER 

Now, while Conachar was still a lad, his mother Ness 
being then a widow, and still beautiful, Fergus mac 
Rdich, who was king of Ulster at that time, desired to 
make her his wife. ' Give me then my conditions,' said 
she; 'namely, that for one year my son reign over 
Ulster, in order that his posterity may be called the 
descendants of a king/ And the officers of the kingdom 
advised Ferg^us to agree to this, and to resign the king- 
dom for one year into the hands of Conachar. Now 
when Nessa had gained her point, she set to work so 
to instruct her son that he should win over to himself 
the most influential of the nobles and the chiefs of the 
province. She supplied him with wealth, which was 
distributed secretly among the people, and in such wise 
did he win over the Ultonians that at the year's end, 
when Fergus demanded back the sovereignty, the chiefs 
refused to allow Conachar to part with it, alleging that 
Fergus having consented to barter the kingdom as a 
dowry to his wife, had, in fact, actually resigned it. 
And they held that to Fergus should be left only 
what he already possessed, namely, his wife ; and that 
Conachar should retain the sovereignty of Ulster. 
Now this was the appearance of the king, of Conachar, 



lo HOW CONACHAR GAINED THE 

son of Fachtna fathach^ the famous, worthy king of 
Ulad, the full-eyed, royal, gigantic warrior. * Compar- 
able to a moon in its great fifteenth was his countenance, 
his visage, and his face. His beard was forked, fair, 
and pointed ; his bushy, reddish-yellow hair was looped 
to the slope of his poll (culad), A purple-bordered 
garment encircled him, a pin of wrought gold fastening 
the garment over his shoulder. Next to the surface of 
his skin was a shirt of kingly satin. A purple-brown 
shield, with rims of yellow gold, was beside him. He 
had a gold-hilted, embossed sword ; in his white firm 
right hand he held a purple-bright, well-shaped spear, 
accompanied by its forked dart.' * On earth was there 
not a man wiser, nor stronger, nor more champion-like 
than he. And in his reign the province was a fountain 
of desire and of wealth, so that there was not a residence 
waste or empty, from the one end of the province to 
the other, without a tenant, serving his hereditary lord. 
And in the king's house at Emain Macha was great 
state kept up ; moreover, on his accession the king had 
promulgated a law that every champion should for one 
night entertain Ulster, and the king seven nights or 
four nights, so that each of the chiefs in turn practised 
hospitality towards the king and the nobles of Ulster. 
And the kingdom prospered, and in his time was peace 
and fatness, wise laws and promulgation of justice, and 
great deeds of championship by Cuchullin and the 
Heroes of the Red Branch. 

But Fergus did not willingly submit to his exclusion 
from the sovereignty; he gathered a great army and 
swore to be avenged on Conachar ; but ultimately he 

^ This description is taken from the tale known as Afesca C/lad, p. 29, 
R.I.A. Todd Lecture Series. 



KINGSHIP OVER ULSTER ii 

was defeated and driven into Connacht And there he 
dwelled a long time in the courts of Ailell and of 
Meave, king and queen of Connacht ; and there existed 
long war and hostility between the men of Connacht 
and the men of Ulster, until Meave stirred up all Erin 
against Conachar in the great Cattle spoil of Ulster 
which is called the Tdin b6 Cuailgne. Ferg^us, although 
he was greatly embittered against Ulster and against 
the king on account of the breach of compact and on 
account of the illegal seizure of the sovereignty, as also 
for the matter of the children of Usnach's exile, yet 
found it hard to be severed from his own people, and 
he thought it not well to lead the forces of Meave 
against the Ultonians, as will be seen in the Tdin.^ 
Now the description of Fergus is this : he was of high 
stature, and his strength was as that of seven hundred 
men ; seven hogs and seven vats and seven kine he 
used to consume ; and his sword would stretch to the 
length of a rainbow when he wielded it' 

^ See Tdin b6 Cuailgne, sec. 5. 

' Fergus was son of Ross the Red, who was finther of Fachtna fatkach^ 
the father of Conachar. He was called Fergus mac R6ich or R6ig (pron. 
Roy) after his mother. Professor Rhys compares this story with the 
usurpation of the kingdom of Cronus by Zeus, Hibbert Lectures ^ pp. 139 
and 647. 



THE ORIGIN OF CUCHULLIN 



Thbrb are two main accounts of the hero's birth. The one here given is 
one of two preserved in MS. Egerton 1782, a MS. of the 15th century. I 
have followed, with some small omissions and modifications, the French 
translation of M. Louis Duvau, which will be found in Reu, Celt, voL ix. 
pp. 1-13. A few touches added from the other versions are marked by 
square brackets. Although the account here given is found in a com- 
paratively late MS., there is a far earlier recension preserved in the oldest 
surviving Irish profane MS., the Book of the Dun G>w (LU.), cojned from 
other Mss. at the end of the iilh century. This recension agrees in the 
main body of the tale with the account of Cuchullin's generation given 
in the second form of the story preserved in MS. Egerton 1782, but there 
are suggestions in it which tend to show that both forms were even then 
known. The discussion which follows the birth of Cuchullin as to his 
upbringing is also found in LU. 

Mr. Alfred Nutt has given a summary of the various accounts in the 
Voyage of Bran^ vol ii. pp. 39-47i and has added a discussion as to the 
age and nature of the legend. 



14 



Ill 

THE ORIGIN OF CUCHULLIN 

CONACHAR had a sister, Dechtire by name. She and 
fifty young maidens, her companions, disappeared one 
day from Emain Macha without warning to the king 
or the Ultonians. For three years nothing was heard 
of them Then a flock of birds began to frequent the 
plain of Emania; they consumed everything before 
them, until not a blade of grass was left The birds 
were Dechtire and her maidens, who sought to attract 
and to draw away the chiefs of Ulster.^ The Ultonians, 
beholding the devastation wrought by the birds, were 
filled with vexation. They yoked nine chariots to 
follow the birds, for hunting birds was a custom 
among them. Among those that went were Conachar 
and Fergus, Amargin and Blai briugu^ Sencha and 
Briccriu. 

The birds flew before them towards the south, across 
Sliab Fuad, by Ath Lethan, by Ath Garach and Magh 
Gossa, between Fir Rois and Fir Ardai (i>. towards 
the fairy dwelling of Brugh on the Boyne, the home 
of the gods Lugh lamfaday and Angus 6g). [There 
were at that time in Ireland neither ditches, jfences, nor 
walls; the plain on every side was unbroken. Graceful 

^ G>mpare the 'Sick-bed of CucfaulUn ' and the 'Story of the Children 

of Lir,'aDd see Grimm's Teut, Myth.^ ed. StalfybrasSy vol. i. pp. 426*429. 

16 



i6 THE CUCHULLIN SAGA 

and beautiful was the flock of birds. There were 
nine times twenty of them, yoked together two and 
two by a chain of silver; they flew in companies of 
twenty, and there were nine groups of them ; at the 
head of each group flew two birds in varied plumage 
united by a yoke of silver. Three birds flew separately 
till night-fall before the warriors right across country. 
As darkness approached a thick snow fell. Conachar 
commanded his followers to unyoke their chariots and 
to go forward to seek some habitation.]^ 

Fergus departed in quest of a shelter where they 
could put up.' He arrived at a little house, where he 
found a man and a woman who bade him welcome. 
'You will bring your companions here and they will 
be -welcome.' Fergus went out and rejoined them; 
then he brought them back with him, the men and 
their chariots, and they took shelter in the house. 

Briccriu went out and heard something; a feeble 
cry. He knew not whence the sound came, but going 
in the direction from which he heard it, he saw 
before him a spacious and handsome house. He 
looked in and saw the master of the mansion, a young 
warrior of splendid appearance and noble mien,* who 
spoke to him. * Enter, O Briccriu,* he said ; ' why do 
you look about ? * ' You are truly welcome so far as I 
am concerned,* said his wife. 'Why does your wife 
salute me?' asked Briccriu. 'It is on her account 

' This passage is not found in our version, but in both LU. and the 
second version contained in MS. Egerton 1782. From this point the 
two versions differ essentially. 

* The original text is here much confused. 

' The noble young warrior is explained in the other versions to be an 
incarnation of the Tualha d6 Danann god, Lugh mac Ethnenn, or Lugh 
lamfada * long-handed.' 



THE ORIGIN OF CUCHULLIN 17 

that I myself bid you welcome. Have you missed 
any one from Emain Macha ? ' * We have, verily/ ' 
replied Briccriu ; ' fifty young maidens have been 
lost to us, and that for three years.' 'Would you 
recognise them if you saw them?' asked the man. 
' If I did not recognise them, it would be because of 
the changes wrought in them during three years; 
these might make one hesitate.' 'Try then to recall 
them,* replied the man ; ' the fifty young girls are in 
this house : this woman here with me is their mistress : 
her name was Dechtire. It was they who, changed into 
birds, flew to Emain Macha to draw the Ultonians 
hither.' The woman bestowed on Briccriu a purple 
mantle with golden fringes ; and he set forth to rejoin 
his comrades. 

Briccriu, during his walk back, pondered thus with 
himself: ' Conachar would give large treasures in order 
to find the fifty lost maidens. I will conceal from him 
that I have discovered them with his sister. I will 
merely say that I have seen a house full of beautiful 
women, and nothing more.' The king asked Briccriu 
for news of his exploration. 'What tidings do you 
bring, O Briccriu ? ' 

' I found myself at a brilliant and beautiful mansion,' 
he replied. ' I have seen a princess, noble, gracious, of 
truly royal demeanour, with beautiful ringlets ; with 
her a group of women, graceful and richly clothed; 
the master of the house, bountiful and brilliant.' 

Conachar, delighted with this description, expressed 
a desire to see the noble lady, and bade some 
one go and fetch her to him. Fergus, reluctantly 
consenting, took the king's message to the woman ; 
but she, complaining that she was ill, requested a delay. 

B 



i8 THE CUCHULLIN SAGA 

Fergus returned her message to the king, and all retired 
to rest for the night In the morning, when they 
arose, they found in the hut a little baby boy, but just 
born, who bore a strong resemblance [?] to Conachar. 

'Take thou this child, Finnchoem,'^ said Conachar to 
his sister. She received the child with joy. ' Already 
my heart goes forth to this little child/ she cried; 
'he will be for me a second Conall cemack (the 
Victorious).' 'There is but little difierence between 
them,' said Briccriu ; ' this child is son of thine own 
sister Dechtire ; the fifty young girls lost to us for three 
years are here.' 

'Take the child to thee, O Finnchoem,' repeated 
Conachar to his sister. 

' It is not she who shall rear it up,' said Sencha; 'it 
is I. For I am strong, I am dexterous, I am skilful 
in combat. I am learned, I am a man of wisdom, 
I am not forgetful. I speak before all men in the 
presence of the king. I am his counsellor ; I arbitrate 
in the kingly combats before Conachar the Victorious. 
I am judge among the Ultonians, but I do not execute 
my own decisions. None can dispute with me the 
tutelage, save Conachar himself.' 

Then arose Blai briugu 'the hospitaller,' and pro- 
tested his services as chief almoner. The child, he 
said, if intrusted to him, would neither suffer through 
negligence nor fail of sustenance. He should have the 
rearing of the king's nephew. 

But Fergus replied, 'What presumption I It is I 
alone who should bring up the child. I am strong, I 
am adroit. I am the envoy of the king. None can 

1 Finnchoem was sister to Conachar and Dechtire, and mother to 
Conall ccmcuh^ Cuchullin's cousin and the avenger of his death. 



THE ORIGIN OF CUCHULLIN 19 

dispute with me in honours or in wealth. I am 
hardened to combats and to warfare. I am a good 
craftsman. I am worthy to be the guardian of youth. 
I am the protector of all the unfortunate. I am the 
terror of the strong, the support of the oppressed.' 

' And now, since you at length are silent, listen to us,' 
said Amargin. ' I am capable of rearing up my pupils 
as though they were kings. In me men extol courage, 
bravery, honour, wisdom. They praise my good for- 
tune, my years, my eloquence, my renown, the valour 
of my race. Though I am a warrior, I am also a poet. 
I seek favour of none, save of Conachar himself; I 
obey none other than the king.' 

Thus each in turn sets forth his qualifications, and 
so unanswerable are they that, at the suggestion of 
Sencha the judge,^ it is finally decided to postpone 
the matter until their return to Emain Macha, when 
Morann can be consulted : Finnchoem, meanwhile, 
taking charge of the boy. On their arrival, Morann 
pronounced judgment, giving to each a share in the 
rearing of the child befitting the special functions of 
his office. 

* It is Conachar's work,' he said, ' to render the 
child illustrious : for he is near of kin to Finnchoem. 
Blai briugu shall charge himself with his sustenance ; 
Fergus shall bear him on his knees ; Amargin shall be 
his tutor ; Finnchoem shall nourish him at her breast 
with Conall the Victorious, her own son, his fellow.' 
Then Morann broke out in prophecy of the future 
greatness of the child, and of his prowess on behalf of 
Ulster. 

' See the charming description of this aged counsellor in Mesca Uiad^ 
R.I.A. Todd Lecture Series, vol. i. pt. i. pp. 38-39. 



20 THE CUCHULLIN SAGA 

'His praise/ he cried, 'will be in the mouths of all 
men ; charioteers and warriors, kings and sages will 
recount his deeds ; he will win the love of many. This 
child will avenge all your wrongs ; he will give combat 
at your fords ; he will decide all your quarrels.' Then 
all agreed to the decision of Morann. Amargin and 
Finnchoem carried away the babe, and he was nurtured 
by them in the fort of Breth, in the Plain of Muir- 
themne.^ 

Readers who wish to follow the career of Cuchullin in con- 
secutive order should here read the passage called ' Cuchullin's 
Boy-deeds' in the Tiin b6 Cuailgne {fnfra^ pp. 135-155), in which 
are related his childish adventures. 



> In Mtica Vlad we learn (pp. 2-3) that in G>nachar's time the 
district of Uladh or Ulidia {ue. the eastern portion of Ulster) had been 
divided into three parts, of which the portion extending from Usnach in 
Meath northward to Dundalk, his own home, ue, the portion called 
G>naille Muirthemne and Cuailgne (pron. Cooley), belonged to Cuchullin. 
Part of Meath thus appears to have belonged to Cuchullin, but the 
ordinary boundary of the province on the east was from the mouth of the 
Boyne on the north to the mouth of the Liflfey on the south. (See 
map.) 



THE TRAGICAL DEATH OF THE 
SONS OF USNACH 



Thb most fiimous legend of the Ultonian cycle and the one which has 
best retained its vitality down to the present day. It has undergone 
successive modifications in the course of repetition. The oldest recension, 
preserved in the Book of Leinster, has been translated into French by 
M. Louis Ponsinet {Revui des Traditions PopulaireSf vol. iii. 1888, pp. 
199-207), and a very similar version will be found with an English transla- 
tion by OTlanagan in The Transactions of the Gaelic Society for 1808, 

pp. 147-177. 

What may be called the mediaeval version is represented by that 
found in the so-called Glenn Masiin MS., preserved in the Advocates' 
Library, Edinburgh. It has been edited by Dr. Whitley Stokes in Irische 
Texte, zweite serie, 2 Heft, pp. 153-177, and by Dr. Alexander Cameron in 
Reliquia Celtica^ vol. ii. pp. 421-461. A closely allied version is printed 
and translated by O' Flanagan, loc, cit, pp. 5-135. 

The translation here adopted is founded on that of Dr. Whitley 
Stokes, but some modifications and additions have been introduced from 
O'Flanagan's rendering. Where these are important, they are marked 
by square brackets. Deirdre's lament for Naisi, adapted fro|n M. 
Ponsinet's French translation of the LL. version, has been added. A 
17th century Irish version of the tale exists in the Belfast Museum. 
Dr. Douglas Hyde has printed the earlier portion of the tale in Zeitschrifi 
fUr Celt, Philologie, vol. ii. pp. 138-155. It differs both in spirit and 
style from the more ancient forms. A Scoto-Gaelic version, taken down 
from oral recitation, was contributed by Mr. A. Carmichael to vol. xii. 
of the Transactions of the Inverness Gaelic Society^ and a modified 
abridgement of his English rendering may be found in Mr. Joseph Jacobs* 
Celtic Fairy Tales, 

For the last two hundred years at least, perhaps for a much longer 
period, this story, the 'Tragical fate of the Children of Lir,' and the 
' Tragical fate of the Children of Tuireann,' have been known as the 
Three Sorrowful Tales of Erin. 



22 



IV 



THE TRAGICAL DEATH OF THE 
SONS OF USNACH 

PART I 

A KING renowned, exceeding mighty, became chief of 
the Province of Ulster. His name was Conchobar, 
son of FdichtnaL /ai/iacA, son of Capa, son of Ginga, son 
of Rury the Great from whom the Clan Rury are 
named. . . . And that valiant, victorious over-king 
went to enjoy a banquet and a feast, to the house of 
Fedlimid, son of Dall, Conchobar's own tale-teller. 
For thus was the feast of Emain Macha enjoyed at 
that time, to wit, three hundred threescore and five 
persons was the number of the knight's household 
that was computed in the house of each man of them. 
And while they were enjoying the banquet, Fedlimid's 
wife brought forth a daughter. Cathbad the Druid, 
who entered the assembly at that moment, uttered 
forebodings and prophecies about the girl, namely, 
that much evil and calamity would befall the province 
on her account And when the warriors heard that, 
they desired to kill her on the spot. 

But Conchobar said, * It shall not be so done ; but I 
will bring her with me, and put her to fosterage, so 
that she may be my own one wife.' 

28 



( 



24 THE TRAGICAL DEATH OF 

Cathbad, the Druid, named her Deirdre; and the 
king placed her in an enclosure apart, with a fosterer 
and a nurse to rear her. And none of the province 
durst go near her save her fosterer and her nurse and 
a female satirist called Levarcham, and Conchobar 
himself. 

And thus she lived until she was ripe for marriage, 
and she outwent in beauty the women of her time. 

Once on a snowy day it came to pass that her fosterer 
killed a calf for her dinner : and when the blood of the 
calf was poured upon the snow, a black raven swooped 
down to drink it. When Deirdre took heed of that, 
she said to Levarcham that she would desire a husband 
having the three colours which she beheld, namely, the 
colour of the raven on his hair, the colour of the calfs 
blood on his cheeks, and the colour of the snow on his 
skin. 

'Even such a man is there in the household of 
Conchobar,' saith Levarcham, ' and he is called Naisi, 
son of Usnach, son of Conall Flatnailed, son of Rury 
the Great, of whose race came also Conchobar, as we 
said above.' 

* If that be so, O Levarcham,' saith Deirdre, * I 
beseech thee to bring him to converse with me, no one 
knowing of it' 

Levarcham disclosed that matter to Naisi. Then 
came Naisi secretly to meet Deirdre, and the girl 
declared to him the greatness of the love she had for 
him, and entreated him to take her away in flight from 
Conchobar. And Naisi consented, though he was slow 
to do so from dread of Conchobar. 

Then Naisi and his two brothers, to wit, Ainle and 
Ardan, and a troop of thrice fifty warriors with them. 



THE SONS OF USNACH 25 

journeyed to Scotland, where they found maintenance 
of quarterage from the king of Scotland, and there they 
remained until the king heard a description of the \ 
beauty of Deirdre, and sought her as a wife for 
himself. 

Great wrath took hold on Naisi when he heard that, 
and he fared forth with his brothers out of Scotland to 
a sea-girt isle, fleeing with Deirdre after many battles 
had been fought between themselves and the followers 
of the king on every hand. 



PART II 

An exceeding beautiful and mighty feast was pre- 
pared by Conchobar, son of Fachtnaya/A/zrA 'the wise' 
and by the nobles of Ulster, in smooth-delightful 
Emain Macha. And the worthies of the province 
came unto that feast. Wine was dealt out to them 
until they were all glad, cheerful, and merry. Then 
arose the men of music and playing and knowledge, 
to recite before them their lays and songs and chants 
[to sound their melodious harps and sweet strings, and 
their bright, splendid timpans ; to sJng their poetic 
strains] their genealogies and their branches of rela- 
tionship. 

These are the names of the poets who were present 
at the feast, namely, Cathbad [the Generous Druid], 
son of Congal Flatnailed, son of Rury, and Genan 
Bright-cheek, son of Cathbad, and Genan [Black-knee], 
son of Cathbad, and Sencha the Great, Fercertne the 
Poet, and many others. 



/ 



26 THE TRAGICAL DEATH OF 

And it was thus that they enjoyed the feast of 
Emain, to wit, a special night ^ was set apart to each 
man of Conchobar's household. This is the number of 
Conchobar's household, even five and threescore and 
three hundred. They were sitting [at feasting and 
enjoyment] until Conchobar uplifted his loud king's 
voice on high, and this is what he said : * I would fain 
know, O warriors, have you ever seen a household that 
is braver than yourselves in Ireland or in Scotland or 
in the great world* beside?* 'Truly have we never 
seen a better,* say they, * and we know not if there be 
such.* 

'If so,* said Conchobar, ' do you know of any great 
want that lies upon you?* *We know not, O high 
king,* say they. *But I know, O warriors,' saith he, 
*the great want that we have, to wit, that the three 
Lights of Valour of the Gael, the three sons of Usnach, 
Naisi and Ainle and Ardan, should be separated from us 
on account of any woman in the world. Naisi for valour 
and prowess was the making of an over-king of Ireland 
[and sons of a king indeed are they] ; by the might of 
his own arm hath he gained for himself a district and 
a half of Scotland.' 

* Had we dared to utter that, O royal soldier, long 
since would we have said it. And, moreover, were 
these three alone in Ulster and none other with them, 
they would defend the province of Ulster against every 
other province in Ireland. For they are sons of a 
border-king ; and heroes for bravery and lions for 
might and courage are they.* 

*If it be so,* said Conchobar, Met messengers and 

* Or'seat.'— O'Flanagan. 

' The dtfmuH nUr means the Continent. 



THE SONS OF USNACH 27 

envoys be sent for them into the fair regions of Alba 
(Scotland), to Loch Etive, and to the strongholds of 
the sons of Usnach [to solicit their return].' 

* Who will take that message ? ' said they all. 

' I know/ said Conchobar, ' that it is Naisi's pro- 
hibition, to come into Ireland in peace, save with one 
of three, namely, Ciichulainn son of Sualtach, and 
Conall cemach son of Amargin, and Fergus mac Ross ; 
and I will now discover unto which of these three I am 
dearest' 

He took Conall into a place apart, and asked him, 
'What would be done, O royal soldier of the world, 
if thou wert sent for Usnach's sons, and they should be 
destroyed in spite of thy safeguard and thy honour — 
a thing I attempt not ? ' 

Said Conall, ' Not the death of one man only would 
result therefrom, but every Ulsterman who should do 
them harm, and upon whom I should lay my hand, he 
would not escape from me without death and destruc- 
tion and slaughter being inflicted upon him.' 

*True it is, O Conall,* saith the king. 'Now I 
perceive that I am not dear to thee.' 

And he put Conall from him, and Cuchulainn came 
before him, and he questioned him in the same manner. 
*I pledge my word/ said Cuchulainn *[that if you 
should ask that of m6, and that they should be brought 
home to you to be slain], I would not take the greatest 
bribe of the globe from thee, though it be sought east- 
ward as far as India itself, in lieu of thy own head to 
fall for that deed.'^ 'That is true, O Cuchulainn, [I 
understand that thou also hast but little love for me].' 

^ This passage is imperfect in the manuscript. I make a guess at its 
meaning. 



28 THE TRAGICAL DEATH OF 

And he put Cdchulainn from him and Fergus was 
brought to him. And he asked the same thing of him. 
And Fergus said : * I promise not to attack thine own 
flesh or blood ; yet there is not an Ulsterman whom I 
should catch [doing them hurt], but he should have 
death and destruction at my hands.' 

* Thou it is who must go for the Children of Usnach, 
O royal soldier/ said Cpnchobar. 'Set forward to- 
morrow, for they would come with thee. And on thy 
return from the east betake thee to the fortress of 
Borrach son of Annte, and pledge thy word to me, that 
[whether] they arrive in Ireland [by night or day], 
neither stop nor stay be allowed them, so that they 
may come that night to Emain Macha.' Then they 
came in together, and Fergus told the others that he 
had undertaken the safe-conduct of the Children of 
Usnach. . . . And they bore away that night. 

Then Conchobar addressed Borrach, son of Annte, 
and asked him, ' Hast thou a feast prepared for me ? ' 
' I have,' said Borrach ; 'but though I was able to 
prepare it for thee, I was not able to bring it to thee to 
Emain Macha.' ' If it be so,' said Conchobar, ' bestow 
it instead upon Fergus, for one of his prohibitions is 
to refuse a feast' And Borrach promised, and they 
_J>ore away that night in safety. 

And, on the morrow, Fergus arose early, and took 
with him neither troops nor attendants, save his own 
two sons, Illann the Fair and Buinne the Ruthless Red, 
and Fuillend, the lad of the lubrach,^ and the lubrach. 

And they moved forward to the fastness of the sons 
of Usnach, and to Loch Etive in Alba. Now thus were 

^ A galley belonging to Fergus. O'Flanagan's version has, 'and 
Gallon who was his shield-bearer, and the shield itself.' 



THE SONS OF USNACH 29 

the sons of Usnach. Three spacious hunting-booths 
they had ; and the booth in which they did their cook- 
ing, in that they ate not, and the booth in which they 
ate in that they slept not 

And when Fergus came into the harbour he sent 
forth a mighty cry, so that it was heard throughout the 
farthest part of the districts around them. And Naisi 
and Deirdre were seated together with Conchobar's 
draught-board between them, and they playing thereon. 
Naisi said : * I hear the cry of a man of Erin.' Now, 
Deirdre had heard the cry, and knew that it was the 
cry of Fergus, but she concealed it from them. [* It 
was not the cry of a man of Erin,' said Deirdre, ' but the 
cry of a man of Alba.*] Again Fergus sent forth a cry, 
and Naisi said : * I hear another cry, and it is the cry 
of a man of Erin.* * Not so,' said Deirdre, * [let us play 
on]. Not alike are the cry of a man of Erin and the 
cry of a man of Alba.' Fergfus sent forth a third cry, 
and the sons of Usnach knew that this of a certainty 
was the cry of Fergus. Naisi bade Ardan go and meet 
him. Then Deirdre told Naisi that she had known the 
first cry of Fergus. * Why didst thou conceal it, damsel ?* 
said Naisi. ' Because of a vision I saw last night,* said 
Deirdre, * to wit, that three birds came to us out of 
Emain Macha ; and in their bills three sips of honey ; 
the sips of honey they left with us, but they took with 
them three sips of our blood.* * How is thy rede of the 
vision, O damsel ? * said Naisi. ' It is this,* said she : 
'Fergus hath come from our own native land with 
peace ; for not sweeter is honey than (a false) message 
of peace ; and the three sips of blood that have been 
taken from us, they are ye, who will go with him and 
will be beguiled.* 



30 THE TRAGICAL DEATH OF 

And they were sorry that she had spoken so. [* Let 
that pass/ said Naisi. ' Fergus is long in the port, go 
therefore, Ardan, and meet him, and bring him with 
thee/] So Ardan went, and he gave him three kisses 
fervently, loyally, and brought them with him to the 
stronghold of the sons of Usnach, wherein were Naisi 
and Deirdre ; and they, too, gave three kisses lovingly 
and fervently to Fergus and to his sons. And they 
asked tidings of Erin, and of Ulster in special. ' These 
are the best tidings that I have,' said Fergus, ' that Con- 
chobar hath sent me for you, and that I have entered 
into covenant for your safeguard, for I am ever loving 
and loyal to you, and my word is on me to fulfil my 
covenant' 

* It is not meet for you to go thither,' said Deirdre, 
*for your own lordship in Alba is greater than Con- 
chobar's lordship in Erin.' * Better than everything is 
one's native land,' saith Fergus; 'for poor is every 
excellence and prosperity to him who sees not his 
native land.' 

'That is true,' said Naisi; *for dearer is Erin to 
myself than Alba, though I should obtain a greater 
share of Alba's goods.' ' My word and my warranty 
are firm to you,' said Fergus. * Verily, they are firm,' 
said Naisi, * and we will go with thee.* But Deirdre 
consented not to what they said, and she strove to 
hinder their going. But Fergus pledged his word that 
if all the men of Ireland should betray them, the pro- 
tection of their shields and swords and helmets should 
avail them little, for he would overcome them all. 

' We know it,' said Naisi, *and we will go with you to 
Emain Macha.' 

They bore away that night till the bright dawn of 



THE SONS OF USNACH 31 

eariy morning on the morrow. And Naisi and Fergus 
arose and sat in the galley, and they passed over the 
sea and the mighty ocean until they arrived at the 
fortress of Borrach, son of Annte. And Deirdre looked 
behind her at the coasts of Scotland, and she cried, * My 
love to thee, O land of the east I It is sad for me to 
leave the sides of thy havens and thy bays, thy smooth- 
flowered, delightful, lovely plains, and thy bright green- 
sided hills. Little need had we [to leave thee \y And 
she sang this lay : 

Deirdre's Farewell to Alba.' 

A lovable land is yon eastern land, 
Alba, with its marvels. 
I would not have come hither out of it, 
Had I not come with Naisi. 

Lovable are Ddn-fidga and Ddn-finn, 
Lovable the fortress over them ; 
Dear to the heart Inis Draigende, 
And very dear is Diin Suibni. 

Caill Cuan I 

Unto which Ainle would wend, alas ! 
Short the time seemed to me. 
With Naisi in the region of Alba. 

Glenn Ldid 1 

Often I slept there under the cliff; 

Fish and venison and the fat of the badger 

Was my portion in Glenn Ldid. 

Glenn Masdin 1 

Its garlic was tall, its branches white ; 

We slept a rocking sleep, 

Over the grassy estuary of Masdn. 

' Compare Sir Samuel Ferguson's metrical version in Lays of th$ 
Western Gael, and that of Dr. Sigerson in Bards of the Gail and Gall, 
(T. Fisher Unwin.) 



32 THE TRAGICAL DEATH OF 

Glenn Etive I 

Where my first house I raised ; 

Beauteous its wood : — upon rising 

A cattle-fold for the sun was Glenn Etive. 



Glenn Dd-Rdad! 

My love to every man who hath it as an heritage ! 
Sweet the cuckoos' note on bending bough, 
On the peak over Glenn Dd-Riiad. 

Beloved is Draigen, 

Dear the white sand beneath its waves ; 

I would not have come from it, from the East, 

Had I not come with my beloved. 

After that they came to Borrach's stronghold ; and 
Borrach gave three kisses to the sons of Usnach, and 
made welcome to Fergus and his sons. And Borrach 
said : * I have a feast for thee, O Fergus ! and a pro- 
hibition ^ of thine is to leave a feast before it shall be 
ended.' 

When Fergus heard that [he reddened with anger] 
from sole to crown. * 111 done is it of you, O Borrach ! * 
said Fergfus, *to put me under prohibitions, for I 
am under promise to Conchobar to bring the sons of 
Usnach to Emain Macha on the very day that they 
land in Ireland.' 

* I lay you under prohibitions,' saith Borrach, * even 
prohibitions that true heroes will not endure, that thou 
come to partake of the feast* And Fergus asked 
Naisi what he should do as to that. ' Do,' said Deirdre, 
* what is desired of thee, if thou dost prefer to forsake 
the sons of Usnach and to consume the feast. How- 

1 The Irish word is geasa or gessa. These prohibitions could not be 
broken or avoided without loss of honour. 



THE SONS OF USNACH 33 

beit^ to forsake them is a good price to pay for a 
fea3t.'i 

* I will not forsake them/ said Fergus, * for I will 
send my two sons with them to Emain Macha, even 
Illann the Fair, and Buinne the Ruthless Red, and 
my own word of honour, moreover.' ' We give much 
thanks for that,' said Naisi, 'since no hands but our own 
have ever defended us in battle or in conflict* And 
Naisi turned in great wrath from the place, and Deirdre 
followed him, and Ainle and Ardan, and Ferguses two 
sons. But that plan was carried out in opposition to 
Deirdre's wishes. 

Fergus remained sunk in gloom and sadness. But 
of one thing he felt certain : if the five great fifths* of 
Erin should be on one spot, and all of one counsel 
together, they would not be able to destroy his safe- 
guard. As to the sons of Usnach, they passed onward 
by the shortest and clearest way that they could go. 

And Deirdre said : * I would give you good- counsel, 
though you would not carry out my advice.' 

* What counsel hast thou, O girl ? ' said Naisi. 

* Let us go to-night to the island of Cuilenn » between 
Erin and Alba, and let us remain there until Fergus 
has concluded his feast ; so will the word of Fergus 
be fulfilled, and the days of your princedom will be 
prolonged.' 

' To us that is an evil counsel,' said Illann the Fair 

^ The copy is here imperfect. This seems to be the drift of Deirdre's 
words. 

' i,e. the inhabitants of the five provinces into which Ireland was 
anciently divided. 

' OTlanagan's MS. has ' Rachlin,' f.#. Rathlin Island, off the coast of 
Antrim. 

C 



34 THE TRAGICAL DEATH OF 

and Buinne the Ruthless Red. ' It is impossible for 
us to carry out that advice. For even were the might 
of your own good hands not with us, and the plighted 
faith of Fergus sworn to you, ye would not be betrayed.' 

' Now is woe come upon us by means of that plighted 
word of Fergus,' said Deirdre, * when he forsook us for 
a feast' 

And she was in grief and in deep dejection because 
they had come into Erin relying on the faith of Fergus, 
And t^en she said : 

Deirdre, * Woe that I came at the word 

Of Fergus, the rash son of R6ich ; 

[I will utter only lamentation on account of it] 

Alas and bitter is my heart 1 

My heart as a clot of sorrow 
Is to-night under great shame. 
My grief, O goodly sons I 
Your last days have come.' 

Naisi, * Say not, O vehement Deirdre, 

O woman, that art fairer than the sun I 
[Fergus would not to the eastward have come 
To us, for our destruction.]' 

Deirdre, * Alas, I am sad for you, 

O delightful sons of Usnach 1 

To have come out of Alba of the red deer. 

Lasting shall be the woe of it I ' 

After that they went forward to the White Cairn of 
the Watching, on Sliab Fuad, and Deirdre remained 
behind them in the glen, and sleep fell upon her there. 
And they did not at first perceive that, till Naisi 
observing it, turned back to meet her at the moment 
when she awoke out of her sleep. 'Wherefore didst 
thou stay there, O Queen ? ' said he. * I fell into 



THE SONS OF USNACH 35 

a sleep,* said Detidre; 'and a vision and a dream 
appeared to me there.' 'What was that dream?' 'I 
bdiekl each of you/ said Deirdre» ' without a head» and 
Illann the Fair headless also, but Buinne the Ruthless 
Red with his own head upon him, and his assistance 
not with us.' And she made the staves : ' Sad is the 
vision that appeared to me • . .' Thence they went 
forward to Ard na Sailech ' the Height of the Willows ' 
which is called Armagh ^ to^ay. Then said Deirdre, 
' Sad is my heart, O Naisi, for I perceive a cloud above 
your head, a cloud of blood ; and I would give you 
counsel, O sons of Usnachl* 'What counsel hast 
thou ? ' said Naisi. 

'To go to-night to Ddn Delgan (Dundalk) where 
Cuchulainn dwells and to abide there until Fergus 
come, or else to go under the safeguard of Cuchulainn 
to Emain.' 

'[Since we are not afraid] we will not follow that 
advice,' said Naisi. 

And the girl sang : 

' O Naisi, look at the cloud 
Which hangs above thee in the air 1 
I see over green Emain 
A mighty cloud of crimson blood . . .' 

After these staves, they went forward by the shortest 
way till they beheld Emain Macha before them. ' I 
will give you a sign,' said Deirdre, ' if Conchobar should 
intend to work treachery upon you.' "What is that 
sign?' said Naisi. 'If you are invited into the house 
wherein are Conchobar and the nobles of Ulster, the 
king intends no evil against you. But if ye are sent to 

' f.#. Ard Macha, 'the height of Macha.' 



36 THE TRAGICAL DEATH OF 

the house of f he Red Branch ^ while Conchobar stays 
on in the house of Emain, then treachery and g^ile will 
be wrought upon you.' 

And they went forward in that wise to the door of 
the house of Emain and they [struck a loud stroke of 
the hand-wood* at the door] and asked that k 
should be opened for them. The doorkeeper answered' 
and demanded who was there. They told him that 
without were the three sons of Usnach and Fergus's two 
sons, and Deirdre. This was told to the king and he 
called his servants and attendants and asked them how 
stood the house of the Red Branch as to food and 
drink. They said that if the five battalions of Ulster 
should be gathered there they would find sufficiency of 
food and drink. ' If that be so/ said Conchobar, ' let the 
children of Usnach be taken into it' This was told to 
the sons of Usnach. Then said Deirdre, * Alas, Naisi, 
great hurt hath befallen you through neglect of my 
counsel. Let us even now go [back ?] ' 

* We will not do so,' said Illann the Fair, son of Fergus, 
' and we protest, O girl, that great is the timidity and 
cowardice thou dost suggest to us in saying that. * We 
will go to the house of the Red Branch/ saith he. 

'Assuredly we will go/ said Naisi. And they 
moved forward to the house of the Red Branch ; 
and servants and attendants were sent to them, and 
they were supplied with noble sweet-tasted viands, 

' One of the three royal courts of Conchobar. The other two were 
called the Crae^A Huadh or ^ * Royal Branch,' and the Teite Brec or 
'Speckled Branch.' In the Craebh Qcrg or Red Branch were kept the 
spoils and trophies and the skulls taken from the enemies of Ulster. 
Craehh Huadh, now Creeveroe, is the name of a townland near the River 
Callan, not far from Emania (the Navan Fort, near Armagh). 

* i>. the knocker. 



THE SONS OF USNACH 37 

and with sweet, intoxicating drinks, till, every one of 
their servants and attendants was drunk and merry 
and loud-voiced. But they themselves partook not of 
food and drink from the weariness caused by their 
travel and journey ; for they had neither stopped nor 
, ^yed from the time they left the fort of Borrach, till 
they came to Emain Macha. 

Then said Naisi : * Let the * Fair-head * ^ of Con- 
chobar be brought to us, so that we may play upon it' 
The * Fair-head ' was brought to them, and its men were 
placed upon it, and Naisi and Deirdre began to play. 

At the same hour Conchobar said, 'Which of you, O 
warriors, will bring me tidings whether her own form 
and shape remain on Deirdre ; for if she is unchanged, 
there is not among the race of Adam a woman whose 
form is more beautiful than hers.' ' I myself will go 
thither,' said Levarcham, 'and I will bring tidings.' 
Now Naisi was dearer to Levarcham than any other 
in the whole world, and often she had gone [abroad] to 
seek Naisi, and to bear tidings to him and from him. 
Then she went forward to the place wherein were 
Naisi and Deirdre. 

Thus were they, with the * Fair-head ' of Conchobar 
between them, and they playing on it. And Levarcham 
gave the sons of Usnach and Deirdre kisses of loyalty, 
lovingly, fervently ; and she wept showers of tears, so 
that her bosom and her breast were wet. And she spake 
and said, ' It is not well for you, O beloved children, to 

^ The ' Cennchaem,' Conchobar's draught or chess-board. Chess 
was a favourite game in Ireland from very early times. The chess- 
boards and men were sometimes made of the precious metals and were 
used as articles of tribute. See BccJk of Rights^ ed. O'Donovan, p. 35, 
and Introd. p. Ixi, and Tdin M Fraich^ Pro. R.I.A. vol. i. pt. i. p. 141. 
Comp., Lady Guest's Afo^., 1877, p. 445. 



38 THE TRAGICAL DEATH OF 

have with you that which the king is most loath to lose 
and you in his power. For it is to see whether her own 
form and shape remain upon Deirdre that I am sent to 
visit you. Grievous to me is the deed that they will do 
to-night in Emain, the treachery and shame and breach 
of troth practised upon you, O darling friends. And 
till the world's end Emain will not be better for a single 
night than it is to-night' And she made this lay : — 

' Sad to my heart is the shame 
Which is done in Emain to-night ; 
And owing to this deed henceforward 
It will be an Emain of contentions . . .' 

Levarcham told the sons of Fergus to shut the doors 
and the windows of the house of the Red Branch. ' If ye 
be attacked, victory and blessing be with you I Defend 
yourselves well and defend [manfully] your charge, and 
the charge of Fergus.* After that she went forward 
gloomily, sadly, unhappily [weeping quick-trickling 
showers of tears] to the place where Conchobar was ; 
and the king asked tidings of her. She said : ' I have 
evil tidings for thee and I have tidings that are good.' 
* Tell me them,* said the king of Ulster. 

'These are the good tidings that I have,' said Levar- 
cham : ' the three whose form and make are best, whose 
motion and throwing of darts are best, whose action and 
valour and prowess are best in Erin and in Alba, and in 
the whole great world beside, have come to thee, and 
henceforth against the men of Erin thou wilt have 
but the driving of a flock of birds, since the sons of 
Usnach go with thee. That is the best tidings that I 
have. And the worst tidings that I have are these: 
that the woman whose form and make were the best in 



THE SONS OF USNACH 39 

the world when she went from us out of Erin, her own 
form and features no longer remain upon her.' 

When Conchobar heard that, his jealousy and bitter- 
ness abated. And they drunk a round or two after 
that, and the king asked again : * Who will go for me 
to discover whether her own form and fashion remain 
upon Deirdre ? ' 

Thrice he asked the question before he had his 
answer. 

Then said Conchobar to Tr^ndorn, 'O Tr^ndorn, 
knowest thou who slew thy father [and thy three 
brothers] ? ' 

' I know that it was Naisi, son of Usnach, who slew 
them.' 

* If so,' said the king, * go and see whether her own 
shape and form remain on Deirdre.' 

And Tr^ndorn moved forward, and came to the 
hostel, and found the doors and the windows shut ; and 
dread and great fear seized upon him, and he said, 
'There is no proper way to approach the sons of 
Usnach, for wrath is upon them.' But he found a 
window that was left unclosed through forgetfulness in 
the hostel, and he began to watch Naisi and Deirdre 
through the window. Now Deirdre, who was the most 
quick-witted, saw him there, and she nudged Naisi, and 
Naisi followed her eye and caught sight of that man. 

And thus was he, having a dead man of the men 
of the draught-board, he made thereof a fearful suc- 
cessful cast, so that it landed in the young man's 
eye, and his eye fell out on the young man's cheek, so 
that he returned to Conchobar having only one eye. 
And he told him tidings from beginning to end, and 
said, ' The woman whose form and feature are loveliest 



40 THE TRAGICAL DEATH OF 

in the world is there, and Naisi would be king of the 
world if she were left to him.* [When Conchobar heard 
that, he was filled with jealousy and envy, and he 
proclaimed to the troops that they should go forward 
and assault the house of the Red Branch.] And Con- 
chobar and the men of Ulster came round the hostel 
and uttered many mighty shouts without, and cast fire 
and fire-brands into the house. [When the children 
of Usnach heard the shouts] they asked who were about 
the Red Branch. 

* Conchobar and the men of Ulster,* say they. 

[' It is like that it is Fergus's safeguard you mean to 
break,*] said Illann the Fair. 

* By my troth,* said Conchobar, ' you and the sons of 
Usnach are like to rue that you have my wife with 
you.' 

* That is true,* said Deirdre, 'and Fergus hath betrayed 
you, O Naisi.' *By my troth !' said Buinne, * [if] he hath 
been treacherous we will not be so.' And Buinne the 
Ruthless Red came forth and slew three fifties at that 
onset, and he quenched the fires and the torches, and 
confounded the troops with that shout of doom. 

Conchobar asked, ' Who causes this confusion to the 
troops ? ' 

' I, Buinne the Ruthless Red, son of Fergus.' 

* Take a bribe from me,' said Conchobar, ' and desert 
the children of Usnach.' * What bribe ? ' said he. 

* A cantred of land,' said Conchobar, * and my privacy 
and counsel.' * I accept,' said Buinne, and he took 
those bribes; but through God's miracle that night, 
the cantred became a desolate moorland, whence it is 
called the Moorland of Buinne's portion. And Deirdre 
heard that parley. * My conscience 1 ' she said ; ' Buinne 



THE SONS OF USNACH 41 

hath deserted you, O sons of Usnach, and the son is 
like his father.' 

' By my own word/ said lUann the Fair, ' I am not 
like to leave them so long as this hard sword is left in 
my hand/ And Illann came forth and made three 
swift circuits of the house, and slew three hundred of 
the Ulstermen without, and re-entered the place where 
Naisi was playing draughts with Ainle the Rough. 
And Illann made a circuit round them and drank a 
drink, and carried a [torch] alight with him out upon the 
green and began cutting down the troops, so that they 
dared not close round the hostel. [A generous youth] 
was Illann the Fair, son of Fergus I Jewels and 
treasures he refused to none ; he took no stipend from 
any king nor did he accept a cow save only from 
Fergus. 

'Where is my own son, Fiacha?' said Conchobar. 
* I am here/ said he. 

* By my troth, on one and the same night thou and 
Illann the Fair were born. And he hath his father's 
arms; do thou take my arms with thee, even the 
Bright-rim and the Victorious, and the Gapped spear, 
and my sword ; and do thou with them valiantly.' 

Then the two youths approached each other; and 
Fiacha advanced straight to Illann, and Illann asked, 
'What is thy desire, O Fiacha?* 'A combat and a 
conflict I wish to have with thee/ he said. 

'Thou doest not well/ said Illann, 'for the sons of 
Usnach are under my safeguard.' 

Then they attacked each other and they fought a 
combat warlike, heroic, bold, daring, rapid. And Illann 
got the better of Fiacha, and made him crouch beneath 
the shadow of his shield, and the shield roared at the 



42 THE TRAGICAL DEATH OF 

greatness of the need wherein he lay.^ And the three 
chief waves of Erin answered to that roar, even the 
wave of Cleena, the wave of Tuag Inbir, and the wave 
of Rury.* 

Conail the Victorious, son of Amargin, was at the 
time in Dunseverick and he heard the thunder of the 
wave of Rury. * True it is,' said Conail, ' Conchobar is 
in danger, and we should do amiss not to go to him.' 
And he took his arms and went forward to Emain, and 
found the fight [on the lawn], Fiacha, son of Conchobar 
having been overthrown, and the shield roaring and 
crying, for none of the Ultonians dared to interfere 
to rescue him. And Conail came up to Illann from 
behind and thrust his blue-green spear ' the Culghlas ' 
through him [even through his heart]. 

'Who hath wounded me?' said Illann. ['And who- 
ever did it, by my hand of valour, he would have got 
battle opposite my face from me, though he hath 
pierced me at my back.'] 

* I, Conail,' saith he ; * and who art thou ?' 

' I am Illann the Fair, son of Fergus, and ill is the 
deed that thou hast done, for the sons of Usnach are 
under my protection.' 

' Is it so indeed ? ' saith Conail. ' True it is,' said he. 

' Ah, my sorrow,' saith Conail ; * by my word 
Conchobar shall not bear off his own son [alive] from 
me in vengeance for that deed.' And with that he 

^ Comp. 'T^in b6 Cuailgne' (sec. 115), and Baffle of Ros na Hgh, 
R.I.A. Todd Lecture Series, vol| iv. pp. 51, S9. 

' These three famous waves, which responded sympathetically in 
moments of distress, were respectively in the Bay of Clonakilty, Co. 
Cork ; at the mouth of the River Bann, Co. Antrim ; and in Dundrum 
Bay. For the origin of the names, see S. H. O'Grady's Silva Gctdcluat 
vol. ii. Extracts xii. xxx. 



THE SONS OF USNACH 43 

gave a stroke of a sword to Fiacha the Fair and shore 
his head from his body, and he left them. 

Then came the weakness of death upon lUann and 
he flung his arms into the hostel, and he called on 
Naisi to do valiantly, for he himself was slain un- 
wittingly by Conall the Victorious. 

Then came the men of Ulster round the dwelling, 
and cast fires and fire-brands into it ; and Ardan came 
forth and quenched the fires, and slew three hundred 
of the host outside. And the second third of the night 
went Ainle forth to protect the dwelling; and he slew 
an innumerable multitude of the Ultonians, so that 
they retired with loss from the hostel. 

Then Conchobar began to hearten the host, and at 
length came Naisi forth [for his third of the night], and 
it is not possible to number all who fell by his hand. 
Then the Ultonians gave the battle of the morning to 
Naisi, and with his single hand he inflicted on them a 
three hours' rout.^ 

Then Deirdre arose to meet him, and she said, 
'Victorious is the conflict that thyself and thy two 
brothers have made, and do ye valiantly henceforward. 
Ill is the counsel that you took to trust in Conchobar 
and the Ultonians, and sad it is that you did not do 
as I counselled.' 

Then the children of Usnach linked each other's 
shields together ; and they put Deirdre between them, 
and set their faces against the host [and they gave 
three bounds, actively, as birds, over the walls of Emain 
outwards] and slew three hundred at that onrush. 

^ Here is inserted in O'Flanagan's text one of those hyperbolic de- 
scriptions of the multitude slain by him, so common in Irish writing of 
the later period. 



44 THE TRAGICAL DEATH OF 

Then Conchobar sought out Cathbad the Druid ; and 
he said, ' O Cathbad, stay the children of Usnach, and 
work enchantment upon them, for if they escape from 
the men of Ulster at this time, they will destroy this 
province for ever. And I pledge my word moreover, 
that I will not harm the children of Usnach [provided 
they be of my accord.] ' 

Cathbad believed those sayings of Conchobar, and he 
went about to restrain the children of Usnach, and he 
cast spells about them, for he put a great-waved sea 
along the field before the children of Usnach. Two 
feet behind them pressed on the men of Ulster [though 
they dared not approach them until their arms fell 
from their hands] and before them was the great sea 
overwhelming them, and Naisi uplifting Deirdre on his 
shoulder lest she should be submerged. 

Then the king cried out to kill the children of 
Usnach, but all the men of Ulster refused to do it 
For there was not one man in Ulster who had not 
wages from Naisi. 

There was a youth there with Conchobar whose 
name was Maine Red-hand, the son of the King of 
Norway.^ Now Naisi had slain his father and his two 
brothers, and he said that he himself was ready to 
behead the children of Usnach in vengeance for that 
deed. *If so,* said Ardan, Met me be the first to die, 
since I am the youngest of my brothers [that I may 
not see my brothers die.] ' 

* Not so,' said Ainle, * let me be slain the first' 

' It shall not be so,' said Naisi ; ' behold the sword of 
Manannan mac Lir which he himself gave to me. It 

^ Other versions say that it vms Eogan, son of Durthacht, who killed the 
children of Usnach. 



THE SONS OF USNACH 45 

leaves no relic of stroke or blow behind. Let us 
three be struck by it at once, so that none of us may 
see his brother beheaded/ Then these three noble ones 
stretched forth their necks on one block ; and Maine 
gave them a sword-blow, and shore the three heads at 
one stroke from them on that spot. 

And each of the Ultonians at that grievous sight 
gave forth three heavy cries of grief. 

As to Deirdre, while each of them was attending to 
the other she came forward on the green of Emain, 
fluttering hither and thither from one to another, till 
Ciichulainn happened to meet her. And he took her 
under his safeguard, and she told him tidings of the 
children of Usnach, from beginning to end, how they 
had been betrayed. 

* That is sad news to me,' said he ; * and dost thou 

know who put them to death ? ' * Maine Red-hand, 

son of the King of Norway,' she said. Then came 

Cuchulainn and Deirdre to where the children of 

Usnach lay, and Deirdre dishevelled her hair, and 

began to drink Naisi's blood,^ and the colour of 

[burning] embers came into her cheeks, and she uttered 

this lay : 

' Great these deeds in Emain,' etc. 

Then Deirdre said, * Let me kiss my husband.' And 
she kissed Naisi and drank his blood and she sang 
thus : * 

^ This curious and horrible custom seems to have continued in Ireland 
into historical times. See Spenser's Vstw of the State of Ireland^ Poems, 
Globe Ed., p. 636. In Laud 610, the Blessed Virgin Mary is said to have 
drunk her Son's blood when He was hanging on the Cross. 

' Sir Samuel Ferguson's fine adaptation of this lament will be found 
in Lays of the Western Gael^ p. 133, and that of Dr. Sigerson in Bards of 
th€ Gael ofid GalL (Seal/, Bryers and Walker, 1888. ) 



46 THE TRAGICAL DEATH OF 

* Long the day without Usnach's children 
It was not mournful to be in their company 
Sons of a king, by whom [sojourners were entertained] 
Three lions from the Hill of the Cave. 

Three dragons of Ddn Monaid ^ 

The three champions of the Red Branch : 

After them I am not alive : 

Three that used to break every onrush. 

Three darlings of the women of Britain, 
Three hawks of Slieve Gullion 
Sons of a king whom valour served 
To whom soldiers used to give homage. 

Three heroes who were not good at homage 
Their fall is cause of sorrow — 
Three sons of Cathbad's daughter, 
Three props of the battalion of Cuailgne. 

Three vigorous bears. 

Three lions out of Lis Una, 

Three heroes who loved their praise, 

The three sons of the breast of the Ultonians. 

Three who were fostered by Aif^, 
To whom a district was under tribute : 
Three columns of breach of battle. 
Three fosterlings whom Scathach had. 

Three who were reared by Boghmain, 

At learning every feat ; 

Three renowned sons of Usnach : 

It is mournful to be absent from them. 

That I should remain after Naisi, 
Let no one in the world suppose : 
After Ardan and Ainle, 
My time would not be long. 

' A mountain range in Scotland. 



THE SONS OF USNACH 47 

Ulster's over-king, my first husband, 

I forsook for Naisi's love. 

Short my life after them : 

I will perform their funeral game. 

After them I shall not be alive — 
Three that would go into every conflict, 
Three who liked to endure hardships, 
Three heroes who refused not combats. 

A curse on thee, O Wizard Cathbad 
That slewest Naisi through a woman I 
Sad that there was none to help him 
The one King that satisfies the world ! 

man, that diggest the tomb 
And puttest my darling from me. 
Make not the grave too narrow : 

1 shall be beside the noble ones. 



Much hardship would I take, 

Along with the three heroes ; 

I would endure without house, without fire. 

It is not I that would be gloomy. 

Their three shields and their spears. 
Were often a bed for me. 
Put their three hard swords 
Over the grave, O gillie 1 

Their three hounds, and their three hawks. 
Will henceforth be without hunters—- 
The three who upheld every battle. 
Three fosterlings of Conall the Victorious. 

The three leashes of those three hounds 
Have struck a sigh out of my heart ; 
With me was their keeping, 
To see them is cause of wailing. 



48 THE TRAGICAL DEATH OF 

I was never alone 

Save the day of making your grave, 
Though often have I been 
With you in a solitude. 

My sight hath gone from me 

At seeing Naisi's grave : 

Shortly my soul will leave me, 

And the folk of my lamentation remain not. 

Through me guile was wrought upon them. 

Three strong waves of the flood 1 

Sad that I was not in earth 

Before Usnach's children were slain 1 

Sad my journey with Fergus, 

To deceive me to the Red Branch : 

With his soft sweet words 

He ruined me at the same time. 

I shunned the delightfulness of Ulster 
Many champions and friends. 
Being after them alone, 
My life will not be long. 

After that, Deirdre flung herself upon Naisi in the 
tomb and gave three kisses to Naisi, and died forthwith, 
[and stones were laid over their monumental heap ; 
their Ogham names were inscribed, and their dirge of 
lamentation sung]. And Cuchulainn went onwards to 
Dundalk sadly and mournfully. 

Then Cathbad the Druid cursed Emain Macha, in 
vengeance for that great evil. Cathbad said, moreover, 
that neither Conchobar nor any of his race should 
possess that stead [from henceforth to all eternity. 
And this has been verified, for neither Conchobar nor 
any of his race possessed Emain from that time to 
this.]i 

^ O'Flanagan's version ends here. 



THE SONS OF USNACH 49 

As to Fergus, son of Ross the Ruddy, he came, on 
the morrow after the slaying of the Children of Usnach, 
to Emain Macha. And when he found that they had 
been slain in breach of his safeguard, he and Cormac 
conlotngeas^ son of Conchobar, and Dubhtach dael 
ultach with their troop, gave battle to Conchobar's 
household, and Maine, son of Conchobar, fell by them, 
and three hundred of his household together with 
him. Emain Macha was burnt and destroyed, and 
Conchobar's women were slain by them. And the 
number of their host was three thousand warriors. 
And from that they proceeded to Cbnnacht to Ailill 
the Great, who was King of Connacht at the time, and 
to Maive of Cruachan, where they found welcome and 
support. As to Fergus and Cormac conlcingtas^ with 
their warriors, after they had reached Connacht they 
were not a single night without sending out marauders 
destroying and burning Ulster, as had been done to 
them. So that the district of Cuailgne was subdued 
by them, a deed from which came abundance of diffi- 
culties and robberies between the two provinces. And 
they spent seven years, or, according to some others, 
ten years thus without a truce between them for a 
single hour ... so that the destructions and the 
hardships which they wrought one against the other 
were so great that the books written on them are 
tedious to read. 



OF DEIRDRE'S DEATH HERE 

As to Deirdre, she was a year in the household of 
Conchobar, after those deeds had come to pass. And 

D 



so THE TRAGICAL DEATH OF 

though it might be a little thing to raise her head, or 
to bring a smile over her lip, never once did she do it 
through all that space of time. [She took not suffi- 
ciency of food, drink, or sleep, nor raised her head from 
her knee. When musicians went to her mansion, she 
would break out into a lament for Naisi.] 

Splendid as in your eyes may be the vehement heroes — who 
re-enter Emain after a war-like foray — More brilliant yet was the 
return — Of the heroic Sons of Usnach to their home. 

Naisi bearing in the mead was truly noble — I bathed him in 
water warmed by the fire — Arden brought an ox or a boar of 
excellent size — ^Ainle a fagot on his stately back. 

Sweet though the excellent mead be found — Drunk by the son 
of Ness (Conachar)— I, in a time that is past, have found more 
agreeable — An abundant sustenance that was yet more sweet. 

When in the forest the noble Naisi — Had laid on the hearth 
logs hewn by the warriors — More pleasant than all other provant 
— I found the game taken in chase by the Sons of Usnach. 

Though they give forth a sound of melody — The pipes and 
flutes that month by month are played before you~It is mine in 
truth to tell you to-day — I have heard sounds sweeter far than 
these. 

In the house of Conachar they are delightful— The flutes and 
horns played by the musicians — Yet found I greater pleasure 
hearkening to the songs — Famous and enchanting, sung by the 
sons of Usnach. 

Like the sound of the wave the voice of Naisi — Was a music 
that wearied not the listener — Ardan was a good barytone — The 
tenor of Ainle resounded through the house. 

Naisi is laid in the tomb — A sad protection was that he re- 
ceived from the three, Fergus, Dubthach and Cormac — From the 
action of these three Naisi received — The poisoned cup of which 
he died. 



THE SONS OF USNACH 51 

Lovely 1 beloved 1 bewitching was his beauty — Noble man 1 flower 
alluring — The root of my pain is that henceforth — Never shall I 
await the coming of the sons of Usnach. 

Well beloved 1 of the mind firm and upright — Well beloved 1 
warrior noble and yet modest — After passing with him through 
the woods of Ireland — Gentle with him was the repose of night 

Dear the grey eye, a woman's love 1 But to his enemies a for- 
midable foe— After crossing the forests we gathered to the trysting- 
place — Welcome his tenor notes across the sombre woods. 

No more I sleep — No more I stain my finger-nails with red — 
Joy enters not my soul — For the sons of Usnach return no more. 

I sleep not — Half the night in my bed — My mind wanders 
among the crowds — I eat not neither do I smile. 

For me there is to-day no instant of joy — In the assemblies of 
noble Emain — There is nor peace, nor pleasure, nor repose — Fine 
houses and splendid adornments are not pleasing to me. 

Splendid as in your eyes may be the eager heroes — Who re-enter 
Emain after a warrior's march — More brilliant yet was the return 
— Of the heroes, the sons of Usnach, to their home. 

When Conachar sought to soothe her, she replied : — 

What, O Conachar, of thee ? — For me, nought but sorrow and 
lamentation hast thou prepared — Such will be my life so long as 
it remains to me — Hardly thy love for me will last. 

He who under heaven was fairest to me — He who was so dear 
— Thou hast torn him from me, great was the crime I — Never till 
I die shall I see him more. 

His absence is the secret of my grief— In place of the forms of 
the sons of Usnach, — I see only a dark tomb : it covers a white 
body — Well known to me and more to be desired than every 
other 1 

His ruddy cheeks, most beautiful 1 — Red lips ; lashes like the 
chafer, black — His teeth shining like pearls — Pure white as snow. 



52 THE TRAGICAL DEATH OF 

• 

Well have I known the faultless warrior's garb^By which he 
was distinguished among the warriors of Alba — Mantle of 
crimson that so well combined — With the fringe of red gold on its 
borders. 

His tunic of silk of costly price — On it a hundred pearls could 
be counted, goodly the number I — For its embroidery had been 
used, I ween it well, — Fifty ounces of white bronze. 

A gold-hilted sword in his hand — With his two spears terrible 
wounds were inflicted — The border of his shield was of yellow 
gold — The boss in the centre, of silver. 

How many the woes brought upon us by noble Fergus — In 
inducing us to cross the sea ! — He has sold his honour for a 
feast ; — The glory of his high deeds is tarnished. 

If there were marshalled on the plain — The warriors of Ulster 
in presence of the king — All of them would I give without excep- 
tion — To see again the face of Naisi, son of Usnach. 

Break not my heart to-day — I expect ere long my early grave ; 
— Stronger than waves of the sea is my grief — Dost thou not know 
it, O Conachar ? 

What, O Conachar, of thee ? — For me, nought but sorrow and 
lamentation hast thou prepared — Such will be my life so long as 
it remains to me, Hardly thy love for me will last 1 

When Conchobar saw that neither amusement nor 
mildness roused her, and that neither jesting nor pleasant 
exaltation put courage into her nature, he gave notice 
to Eogan, son of Durthacht, prince of Ferney : some 
historians say that it was this Eogan who had slain 
Naisi at Emain Macha. When Eogan had come the 
king said to Deirdre [' What is it you hate most of all 
you see?' * Thou thyself, and Eogan, son of Durthacht,' 
she said. * Thou shalt be a year in Eogan's power then,' 
said Conchobar. And he gave her over to Eogan, and 
they drove the next day to the assembly of Muirthemne 



THE SONS OF USNACH $% 

(or of * Macha,' LL.). She was put behind EojprfTin a 
chariot She looked down towards the earthfthat she 
might not see her two tormentors.] And when Con- 
chobar perceived this, for he was watching her and 
Eogan, he said to her in jest, ' Ah, Deirdre, it is the 
glance of an ewe between two rams, that you cast 
between me and Eogan 1 ' When Deirdre heard that, 
she started up, and gave a leap out of the chariot, and 
struck her head against the rocks that were before her, 
and dashed her skull to pieces, so that her brain fell 
suddenly out And thus came to pass the death of 
Deirdre.* 

CFlanagan tells us that at the conclusion of the tale, a tradi- 
tional relation was always added. It is said that King Conchobar 
was so incensed that Naisi and Deirdre should even in death 
dwell in the mansion of the grave together, that he ordered them 
to be laid far apart in the burial-ground. Every morning for 
some days, however, the graves would be found open and Nnisi 
and Deirdre found together in one of them. Then Conchobar 
ordered that stakes of yew should be driven severally through 
their bodies, in order to keep them asunder. But two yew-trees 
sprang from these two stakes, which grew to such a height that 
' they embraced each other over the cathedral of Armagh.' 



9 

' This is substantially the version found also in the Book of Leinster. 
It is probably the older of the two. 

' See Introduction, and compare a similar incident in * Sc6\ Baili 
Binnb^rlaig,' ed. by Dr. Kuno Meyer, /^€v, Celi, xiii., and 0*Curry, 
MS. Mat. Appendix, pp. 465-6. 



THE WOOING OF EMER 



Two versions are known of this fine tale {a) That edited and translated 
by Dr. Kuno Meyer from the Bodleian MS. Rawl. B. 512, and published 
by him in I^ev, Ceit,, xi. pp. 442-453. From the presence of old- Irish 
verbal and synthetical forms and the simpler form of the incidents, the 
editor assigns it to the eighth century. It is incomplete, the whole of the 
opening being wanting, and is obviously much abridged. It was probably 
a mere outline, to be expanded by the bard at the time of recitation. 
{d) The fuller version here given, of which a fragment is found in LU. 
and a complete copy in Stowe MS. 992, edited and translated in full by 
Dr. Kuno Meyer in the Archaological Review^ vol. i. 1888. Dr. Meyer 
has had the kindness to revise the translation for the present work. 

I have omitted a few incidents of minor importance in accordance wiih 
the views expressed on p. xlii of the Introduction. 

The ' Wooing of Emer ' is mentioned in the Book of Leinster list of 
prime stories, and also in the Introduction to the Senchus mdr. It is associ- 
ated with three other of the most famous tales of Ireland in the ' Vision of 
Mac Conglinne' edited by Dr. Kuno Meyer (D. Nutt, 1892), where the 
fdihliaig who cures MacFinguine of his voracity is described as having 
' the Tiin b6 Cuailgne and Bruidhen d^ Derga in the shoe that was on his 
right foot ; Tochmarc Etaine and Tochmarc Emere in the shoe that was 
on his left foot' 

It is sometimes reckoned as one of the remscila or Introductory tales to 
the Tiin b6 Cuailgne. 



66 



THE WOOING OF EMER 

PART I 

There lived once upon a time a great and famous 
king in Emain Macha, whose name was Conchobar, 
son of Fdichinsi/af AacA. In his reign there was much 
store of good things enjoyed by the men of Ulster. 
Peace there was, and quiet, and pleasant greeting ; 
there were fruits and fatness and harvest of the sea ; 
there was sway and law and good lordship during his 
time among the men of Erin. In the king's house at 
Emain was great state and rank and plenty. On this 
wise was that house, the Red Branch of Conchobar, 
namely, after the likeness of the house of Tara's 
'Meadhall.' Nine compartments* were in it from the 
fire to the wall. Thirty feet was the height of each 
bronze partition' that was in the house. Carvings of 
red yew therein. A board {i.e. wooden ceiling) beneath 
and a roofing of tiles above. The compartment of 

^ Literally ' beds ' ; but they could not have been sleeping-couches in 
a banqueting hall. As many as twelve could repose in one such 'bed.' 
The banqueting hall at Tara, to which this building is compared, was 
300 feet long and had fourteen doors opening from the longer walls which 
ran east and west. (See Additional Note.) 

' Literally 'front'; it probably means the partition- walls of the 
separate compartments. 

67 



S8 THE CUCHULLIN SAGA 

Conchobar was in the forefront of the house, with 
boards (i,e. ceiling) of silver with pillars of bronze. Their 
headpieces glittering with gold and set with carbuncles, 
so that day and night were equally light therein, with 
its plate (or gong) of silver above the king to the 
roof-tree of the royal house. Whenever Conchobar 
struck the plate with his royal rod, all the men of 
Ulster were silent* The twelve divisions of the twelve 
chariot-chiefs were round about the king's compart- 
ment. Yea all the valiant warriors of the men of 
Ulster found space in that king's house at the time of 
drinking, and (yet) no man of them would press upon 
the other. Splendid, lavish, and beautiful were the 
valiant warriors of the men of Ulster in that house. 
In it were held great and numerous gatherings of 
every kind, and wonderful pastimes. Games and music 
and singing there, heroes performing their feats, poets 
singing, harpers and players on the timpan striking 
(up) their sounds. 

Now, once the men of Ulster were in Emain Macha 
with Conchobar, drinking the iem-gual} A hundred 
fillings of beverage went into it every evening. Such 
was the drinking of the iem-gual^ which at one time 
(i>. sitting) would satisfy all the men of Ulster. The 
chariot-chiefs of Ulster were performing on ropes 
stretched across from door to door in the house at 

' Compare a similar passage in the Second Feast of Briccriu, M. 
D'Arbois de Jubainville's Epop^i Celiiqtu eti Irlande^ p. 151. 

' i.e, 'the iron-coal.' This was a hugh copper wine- cask, so called, 
according to LL., p. 258 b. ' because there was a coal-fire in the house at 
Emain when it was drunk.' — Translator's note. Compare the description 
of Conchobar's ^aradach* or ladder-vat in 'Das Fest des Bricriu/ 
Irische Texte, zweite serie, I heft, p. 164. For the history of the vat, 
see GSir Anmann, § 160, Irische Tex/e, dritte serie, 2 heft, p. 359. 



THE WOOING OF EMER 59 

It 

Emania. Fifteen feet and nine score was the size of 
that house. The chariot-chiefs were performing three 
feats, viz., the spear-feat, the apple-feat, and the 
sword-edge feat. The chariot-chiefs who performed 
those feats are these, Conall the Victorious, son of 
Amargin ; Fergus, son of Rdich, the Over-bold ; Lae- 
gaire the Triumphant, son of Conna ; Celtchar, son of 
Uitechar; Dubhtach, son of Lugaid; Ciichulainn, son 
of Sualtach; Seel, son of Barnene (from whom the 
Pass of Barnene is named), the warder of Emain 
Macha. From him is the saying 'a story of Scel's,' 
for he was a mighty story-teller. Ciichulainn surpassed 
them all at those feats for quickness and deftness. 
The women of Ulster loved Cuchulainn greatly for his 
dexterity in the feats, for the nimbleness of his leap, 
for the excellency of his wisdom, for the sweetness of 
his speech, for the beauty of his face, for the loveliness 
of his look. For in his kingly eyes were seven pupils, 
four of them in his one eye, and three of them in the 
other. He had seven fingers on either hand, and 
seven toes on either of his two feet. Many were his 
gifts. First, his gift of prudence until his warrior's 
flame appeared, the gift of feats, the gift of buanfach 
(a game like chess or draughts), the gift of draught- 
playing, the gift of calculating, the gift of sooth-saying, 
the gift of discernment, the gift of beauty. But 
Cuchulainn had three defects : that he was too young, 
for his . . .? had not grown, and all the more would 
unknown youths deride him, that he was too daring, 
and that he was too beautiful. The men of Ulster took 
counsel about Cuchulainn, for their women and maidens 
loved him greatly. For Cuchulainn had no wife at 
that time. This was their counsel, that they should 



6o THE CUCHULLIN SAGA 

seek out a maiden whom Cdchulainn might choose to 
woo. For they were sure that a man who had a wife 
to attend to him would less spoil their daughters and 
accept the love of their women. And, besides, they 
were troubled and afraid that Ciachulainn would perish 
early, so that for that reason they wished to give him 
a wife that he might leave an heir ; knowing that his 
rebirth would be of himself.^ 

Then Conchobar sent out nine men into each 
province of Erin to seek a wife for CUchuIainn, to 
see if in any dun, or in any chief place in Erin they 
could find the daughter of a king, or of a chief, or of 
a hospitaller, whom it might please Cdchulainn to woo. 

All the messengers returned that day a year gone, 
and had not found a maiden whom Ciachulainn chose 
to woo. Thereupon Cdchulainn himself went to 
woo a maiden that he knew in Luglochta Loga, 
'the Gardens of Lugh,* namely, Emer, the daughter 
of Forgall the Wily. Ciachulainn himself, and his 
charioteer Laegh, son of Riangabar, went in his chariot. 
That was the one chariot which the host of the horses 
of the chariots of Ulster could not follow, on account 
of the swiftness and speed of the chariot, and of the 
chariot chief who sat in it. Then Cdchulainn found 
the maiden on her playing-field, with her foster-sisters 
around her, daughters of the land-owners that lived 
around the diSn of Forgall.* They were learning 
needlework and fine handiwork from Emer. Of all 
the maidens of Erin, she was the one maiden whom he 

^ i,i. That only from himself could another such as he have origin. 

* The ddn, or fort of Forgall the ' Wily ' was at Lusca (now Lusk), north 
of Dublin. It was one of the six famous Courts or Bruidhens of Ireland, 
and was noted for hospitality. It was also a place of sanctuary. 



THE WOOING OF EMER 6i 

deigned to address and to woo. For she had the six 
gifts : the gift of beauty, the gift of voice, the gift of 
sweet speech, the gift of needlework, the gifts of 
wisdom and chastity.. CUchulainn had said that no 
maiden should go with him but she who was his equal 
in age and form and race, in skill and deftness, who 
was the best handiworker of the maidens of Erin, for 
that none but such as she were a fitting wife for him. 
Now, as Emer was the one maiden who fulfilled all 
these conditions, Cuchulainn went to woo her above 
all. 

It was in his festal array that Cuchulainn went forth 
that day to address Emer, and to show his beauty to her. 
As the maidens were sitting on the bench of gathering 
at the dun, they heard coming towards them the clatter 
of horses' hoofs, with the creaking of the chariot, the 
cracking of straps, the grating of wheels, the rush of 
the hero, the clanking of weapons. 

* Let one of you see,' said Emer, ' what it is that is 
coming toward us.' 

' Truly, I see,' said Fiall, daughter of Forgall, * two 
steeds alike in size, beauty, fierceness, and speed, 
bounding side by side. Spirited (they are) and power- 
ful, pricking their ears : their manes long and curling, 
and with curling tails. At the right side of the pole 
of the chariot is a grey horse, broad in the haunches, 
fierce, swift, wild ; thundering he comes along, taking 
small bounds, with head erect and chest expanded. 
Beneath his four hard hoofs the firm and solid turf 
seems aflame. A flock of swift birds follows, but, as 
he takes his course along the road, a flash of breath 
darts from him, a blast of ruddy flaming sparks is 
poured from his curbed jaws. 



62 THE CUCHULLIN SAGA 

' The other horse jet-black, his head firmly knit, his 
feet broad-hoofed and slender. Long and curly are his 
mane and tail. Down his broad forehead hang heavy 
curls of hair. Spirited and fiery, he fiercely strides 
along, stamping firmly on the ground. Beautiful he 
sweeps along as having out-stripped the horses of the 
land ; he bounds over the smooth dry sward, following 
the levels of the mid-glen, where no obstacle (obstructs 
his pace). 

'I see a chariot of fine wood with wicker work, 
moving on wheels of white bronze. A pole of white 
silver, with a mounting of white bronze. Its frame 
very high of creaking tin (or copper), rounded and 
firm. A strong curved yoke of gold. Two firm plaited 
yellow reins. The shafts hard and straight as sword- 
blades. 

' Within the chariot a dark sad man,^ comeliest of the 
men of Erin. Around him a beautiful crimson five- 
folded tunic, fastened at its opening on his white breast 
with a brooch of inlaid gold, against which it heaves, 
beating in full strokes. A shirt with a white hood, 
interwoven red with flaming gold. Seven red dragon- 
gems on the ground of either of his eyes. Two blue- 
white, blood-red cheeks th^ breathe forth sparks and 
flashes of fire. A ray of love burns in his look. 
Methinks, a shower of pearls has fallen into his mouth. 
As black as the side of a black ruin each of his eye- 
brows. On his two thighs rests a golden-hilted sword, 
and fastened to the copper frame of the chariot is a 
blood-red spear with a sharp mettlesome blade, on 
a shaft of wood well fitted to the hand. Over his 

^ So in Mesca Ulad^ p. 29, Ctichulainn is called ' a little black-browed 
man, greatly resplendent.' 



THE WOOING OF EMER 63 

shoulders a crimson shield with a rim of silver, 
ornamented (i>. chased) with figures of golden animals. 
He leaps the hero's salmon-leap into the air, and 
does many like swift feats. (This is the description 
of) the chariot chief of the single chariot^ 

'Before him in that chariot there is a charioteer, a 
very slender, tall, much freckled man. On his head is 
very curly bright- red hair, (held by) a fillet of bronze 
upon his brow which prevents the hair from falling 
over his face. On both sides of his head patins (or 
cups) of gold confine the hair. A shoulder mantle 
about him with sleeves opening at the two elbows, and 
in his hand a goad of red gold with which he guides 
the horses.' 

Meanwhile, Cuchulainn had come to the place 
where the maidens were. And he wished a blessing 
to them. 

Emer lifted up her lovely face and recognised Cuchu- 
lainn, and she said, ' May God make smooth the path, 
before you ! ' 

'And you,' he said, *may you be safe from every 
harm ! ' . 

'Whence comest thou?' she asked. 'From Intide 
Emna,' he replied. 'Where did you sleep?' said she. 
'We slept,' he said, * in the house of the man who tends 
the cattle of the plain of Tethra.' * What was your food 
there ? ' she asked. ' The ruin of a chariot was cooked 
for us there,' he replied. 'Which way didst thou 
come?' 'Between the Two Mountains of the Wood.' 
said he. 'Which way didst thou take after that?' 
' That is not hard to tell,' he said. ' From the Cover 

' Compare the description of Cuchulainn and Laegh in the ' Phantom 
Chariot of Cuchulainn.' And see Additional Notes on that tale. 



64 THE CUCHULLIN SAGA 

of the Sea, over the Great Secret of the Tuatha 66 
Danann, and the Foam of the two steeds of Emania ; 
over the Morrigan's Garden, and the Great Sow's 
Back ; over the Glen of the Great Dam, between the 
god and his prophet ; over the Marrow of the Woman 
Fedelm, between the boar and his dam ; over the 
Washing-place of the horses of Dea; between the 
King of Ana and his servant, to Mondchuile of the 
Four Corners of the World ; over Great Crime and 
the Remnants of the Great Feast; between the Vat 
and the Little Vat, to the Gardens of Lugh, to the 
daughters of Tethra's nephew (i>. Forgall), the king 
of the Fomori. And what, O maiden, is the account 
of thee?' said Cijchulainn. 

'Truly, that is not hard to tell,' said the maiden. 
' Tara of the women,^ whitest of maidens, the (paragon ?) 
of chastity, a prohibition that is not taken, a watcher 
that (yet) sees no one.^ A modest woman is a worm,^ 
... a rush which none comes near.^ The daughter 
of a king is a flame of hospitality, a road that cannot 
be entered. I have champions that follow me to 
guard me from whoever would carry me off against 
their will, without their and Forgall's knowledge of 
my act' 

* Who are the champions that follow thee, O maiden ? ' 
said Cuchulainn. 

^ Truly, it is not hard to tell,' said Emer. 'Two 
called Lui, two Luaths ; Luath and Lath Goible, son of 

* There are old glosses to explain some of these passages : — 
Glass,, i.e. As Tara is above every hill, so I am above every woman. 
i.$. I am looked at by everybody for my beauty, and I look at 
nobody. 
i.e. When a worm is seen, it goes into tlie depth of the water. 
i.e. For her beauty. (See Additional Note on ' Kennings.') 



/ 



THE WOOING OF EMER 65 

Tethra; Triath and Trescath, Brion and Bolor; Bas, 
son of Omnach ; eight (called) Condia ; and Cond, son 
of Forgall. Every man of them has the strength of a 
hundred and the feats of nine. Hard it were, too, to 
tell the many powers of Forgall's self. He is stronger 
than any labourer, more learned than any Druid, more 
acute than any poet. It will be more than all your 
fames to fight against Forgall himself. For many 

,r!powers of his have been recounted (and prowess?) of 

/* manly deeds.' 

/ 'Why dost thou not reckon me, O maiden, with 
those strong men?' said Cuchulainn. 'If thy deeds 
have been recounted, why should I not reckon thee 
among them ? ' ' Truly, I swear, O maiden,' said 
Cuchulainn, 'that I shall make my deeds to be re- 
counted among the glories of the strength of heroes.' 
'What then is thy strength?' said Emer. 'That is 
quickly told,' said he. 'When my strength in fight 
is weakest,' I defend twenty. A third part of my 
strength is sufficient for thirty. Alone, I make combat 
against forty. Under my protection a hundred are 
secure. From dread of me, warriors avoid fords and 
battle-fields. Hosts and multitudes and many armed 
men flee before the terror of my face.' 

' Those are goodly fights for a tender boy,' said the 
maiden, 'but thou hast not yet reached the strength 
of chariot-chiefs.* 

'Truly, O maiden,' said he, 'well have I been 
brought up by my dear foster-father Conchobar. Not 
as a churl looks to the heritage of {i.e. strives to bring 
up) his children, between flag and kneading-trough, 
between fire and wall, nor on the floor of the single 
larder (?) have I been brought up by Conchobar ; but 

E 



66 THE CUCHULLIN SAGA 

among chariot-chiefs and champions, among jesters 
and Druids, among poets and learned men, among the 
lords of land and farmers of Ulster have I been reared, 
so that I have all their manners and gifts/ 

'Who then were they who brought thee up in all 
those deeds of which thou boastest?' said Emer. 
'That, truly, were easily told. Fair-speeched Sencha 
has taught me, so that I am strong, wise, swift, deft.^ 
I am prudent in judgment, my memory is good. 
Before wise men, I (make answer to) many ; I give 
heed to their arguments. I direct the judgments of all 
the men of Ulster, and, through the training of Sencha, 
(my decisions) are unalterable. 

'Blai, the lord of lands, on account of his racial kin- 
ship took me to himself, so that I got my due with 
him. I invite the men of Conchobar's province with 
their king. I entertain them for the space of a week, 
I settle their gifts and their spoils, I aid them in their 
honour and their (honour) fines. 

'Fergus has so fostered me, that I slay mighty 
warriors through the strength of valour. I am fierce 
in might and in prowess, so that I am able to guard 
the borders of the land against foreign foes. I am a 
shelter for every poor man, I am a rampart of fight for 
every wealthy man ; I give comfort to him who is 
wretched, I deal out mischief to him who is strong : (all 
this) through the fosterage of Fergus. 

* Amargin the poet, to his knee I came. Therefore 
I am able to praise a king for the possession of any 
excellency ; therefore I can stand up to any man in 
valour, in prowess, in wisdom, in splendour, in clever- 

^ The long passage following closely corresponds to the final part of the 
' Origin of Cuchulainn.* 



THE WOOING OF EMER 67 

ness, in justice, in boldness. I am a match for any 
chariot-chief. I yield thanks to none, save Conchobar 
the Battle- Victorious. 

'Finnchoem has reared me, s'o that Conall cemach 
is my foster-brother. 

'For the sake of Dechtire, Cathbad of the gentle 
face hath taught me, so that I am an adept in the arts 
of the god of druidism, and learned in the excellencies 
of knowledge. 

'All the men of Ulster have taken part in my 
bringing up, alike charioteers and chariot-chiefs, kings 
and chief poets, so that I am £he darling of the host 
and multitude, so that I fight for the honour of them 
all alike. 

' Honourably have I been asked (?) by Lugh, son of 
Cond mac Ethlend,^ ... of Dechtire to the house • . • 
of the Brugh. And thou, O maiden,' said Cuchulainn, 
' how hast thou been reared in the Gardens of Lugh ? ' 

' It is not hard to relate that to thee, truly,' answered 
the maiden. ' I was brought up,' said she, ' in ancient 
virtues, in lawful behaviour, in the keeping of chastity, 
in rank equal to a queen, in stateliness of form, so that 
to me is attributed every noble grace of form among 
the hosts of (Erin's ?) women.' ' Good indeed are those 
virtues,' said Cuchulainn. 'Why, then, should it not 
be fitting for us both to become one ? For I have not 
hitherto found a maiden capable of holding converse 
with me at a meeting in this wise.' ' Yet one question,' 
said the maiden. 'Hast thou a wife (already)? . . .' 
' Not so,' said Cuchulainn. 

^ This seems to be a reference to Cuchulainn's descent from Lugh 
iamfada. The passage is imperfect. Perhaps it means 'Noble,* or 
' Distinguished is my descent from Lugh/ etc. 



68 THE CUCHULLIN SAGA 

Said the maiden, ' I may not marry before my 
sister is married, for she is older than I;^ namely, 
Fial, daughter of Forgall, whom thou seest with me 
here. She is excellent in handiwork.' 

' It is not she, truly, with whom I have fallen in love,' 
said Cuchulainn. ' Nor have I ever accepted a woman 
who has known a man before me, and I have been told 
that yon girl was once Cairpre ntafer's* 

While they were thus conversing, Cuchulainn saw 
the breasts of the maiden over the bosom of her smock. 
And he said : ' Fair is this plain, the plain of the noble 
yoke.' Then the maiden spake these words : * No one 
comes to this plain, who does not slay as many as a 
hundred on such ford from the Ford of Scennmenn at 
Ollbine to Banchuing Arcait, where swift Brea breaks 
the brow of Fedelm.' 

' Fair is this plain, the plain of the noble yoke,' said 
Cuchulainn. 'No one comes to this plain,' said she, 
' who has not achieved the 'feat of slaying three times 
nine men at one blow, O calf of the cow, . . . (yet) so 
as to preserve one man in the midst of each nine of 
them alive.' 

' Fair is this plain, the plain of the noble yoke,' said 
Cdchulainn. ' None comes to this plain,' said she, 'who 
does not, from summer's end to the beginning of spring, 
from the beginning of spring to May-day, and again 
from May-day to the beginning of winter meet Benn 
Suain, son of Roscmelc' 

' Even as thou hast commanded, so shall all by me 
be done,' said Cuchulainn. 

* And by me thy offer is accepted, it is taken, it is 

^ Compare a similar passage in 'The Tribute,' ed. by S. H. O'Grady, 
6V/va Gadelica^ vol. ii. p. 402. 



THE WOOING OF EMER 69 

granted/ said Emer. ' Yet one question more. What 
is thy account of thyself? ' said she. 

' I am the nephew of the man ^ that disappears in 
another in the wood of Badb/ said he. 'And thy 
name ? ' she said. ' I am the hero of the plague that 
befalls dogs/ ' said he. 

After those notable words, Cuchulainn went from 
thence, and they did not hold any further converse on 
that day. 

While Ci!ichulainn was driving across Bregia, Laegh, 
his charioteer, asked him : ' Now,' said he, ' the words 
that thou and the maiden Emer spoke, what didst thou 
mean by them ? ' 

' Dost thou not know,' answered Cdchulainn, ' that I 
am wooing Emer ? And it is for this reason that we 
disguised our words, lest the girls should understand 
that I am wooing her. For, if Forgall knew it, we 
should not meet with his consent' 

Ci!ichulainn then repeated the conversation from the 
beginning to his charioteer, explaining it to him, to 
beguile the length of their way.' ^ 

• • • • • • 

Cuchulainn went driving on his way, and slept that 
night in Emain Macha.^ 

' f.^. Conchobar. 

' Gioss., That is true, for wild fierceness, that is the plague that befalls 
dogs. 

* We omit the lengthened explanation of the conversation between 
Cuchulainn and Emer. It is full of curious details and mythological 
allusions, now obscure, but then evidently well understood. (See Ad- 
ditional Note on ' Kennings.') 

* The earlier version begins here ; but the tale is preceded by the final 
sentences of Cuchulainn's explanation to Lkegh, which looks as though 
the ' Kennings ' had originally formed part of it. 



70 THE CUCHULLIN SAGA 

Then their daughters told the land-owners of the 
youth that had come in his splendid chariot, and of the 
conversation held between him and Emer: that they 
did not know what they had said to one another ; and 
that he had turned from them across the plain of 
Bregia northward. 

Then the lords of land relate all this to Forgall the 
Wily, and tell him that the girl had spoken to Cijchu- 
lainn. * It is true,* said Forgall the Wily. * The mad- 
man from Emain Macha has been here to converse 
with Emer, and the girl has fallen in love with him : 
that is why they talked one to another. But it shall 
avail them nothing. I shall hinder them,' he said. 

Thereupon Forgall the Wily went towards Emain 
Macha in the garb of a foreigner, as if it were an 
embassy from the king of the Gauls ^ that had come to 
confer with Conchobar, with an offering to him of 
golden treasures, and wine of Gaul, and all sorts of 
good things besides. In number they were three. * 
Great welcome was made to him. When on the third 
day he had sent away his men Cuchulainn and Conall 
and other chariot-chiefs of Ulster were praised before 
him. He said that it was true, that the chariot-chiefs 
performed marvellously, but that were Ciichulainn to 
go to Donall the Soldierly in Alba (i>. Britain or 
Scotland) hii^ skill would be more wonderful still ; and 

^ This sentence is translated from the earlier version and shows that it 
dates from a period when the word gall signified for the Irish an inhabi- 
tant of Gaul, gallus. By the time the second redaction was made the 
word had changed its significance, and was applied to the stranger par 
excellence^ the Norseman. The copyist of the second redaction found in 
his model Jin Gal/=yf\ne of Gaul ; Gall for him meant Norse, and as he 
knew wine did not come from Norway he made of the two words one : 
Finngall = Norsemen. (See ^^. Cell, xi. 438.) 



THE WOOING OF EMER 71 

that if he went to Scathach to learn soldierly feats, he 
would excel the warriors of all Europe. 

But the reason for which he proposed this to 
Cdchulainn was that he might never return again. 
For he thought that if Cuchulainn became her friend, 
he would come to his death thereby, through the 
wildness and fierceness of yonder warrior. Ciichulainn 
consented to go, and Forgall bound himself to give 
Cdchulainn whatever he desired, if he should go within 
a certain time. 

Forgall went home, and the warriors arose in the 
morning and set themselves to do as they had vowed. 

So they started ; Ciichulainn and Laegaire the Tri- 
umphant, and Conchobar; and Conall cemachy some say, 
went with them. But Cuchulainn first went across the 
plain of Bray (Bregia) to visit the maiden. He talked 
to Emer before going in the ship, and the maiden told 
him that it had been Forgall, who in Emania had 
desired him to go and learn soldierly feats, in order 
that they two might not meet. And she bade him be 
on his guard wherever he went, lest Forgall should 
destroy him. Either of them promised the other to 
keep their chastity until they should meet again, unless 
either of them died meanwhile. They bade each other 
farewell, and he turned towards Alba. 



PART II 

Cl>CHULAINN*S EDUCATION IN CHAMPIONSHIP 

When they reached Donall, they were taught by him 
to blow a leathern bellows under the flagstone of the 



72 THE CUCHULLIN SAGA 

small hole. On it they would perform till their soles 
were black or livid. They were taught another thing 
on a spear, on which they would jump and perform on 
its point ; this was called ' the champion's coiling round 
the points of spears/ or * dropping on its head.' 

Then the daughter of Donall, Dornolla (/>. Big-fist) 
by name, fell in love with Cuchulainn. Her form was 
very gruesome, her knees were large, her heels turned 
before her, her feet behind her;^ big dark-grey eyes in 
her head, her face as black as a bowl of jet. A very 
large forehead she had, her rough bright-red hair in 
threads wound round her head. Ciichulainn refused her. 
Then she swore to be revenged on him for this. 

Donall said that Cdchulainn would not have .perfect 
knowledge of their learning until he went to Scathach, 
who lived to the east of Alba. So the four went across 
Alba, viz., Cdchulainn, and Conchobar, King of Ulster, 
and Conall cernach^ and Laegaire the Triumphant. 
Then before their eyes appeared unto them in a vision 
Emain Macha, past which Conchobar and Conall and 
Laegaire were not able to go. The daughter of 
Donall had raised that vision in order to sever CiSchu- 
lainn from his companions to his ruin. Other versions 
say, that it was Forgall the Wily who raised this 
vision before them to induce them to turn back, so that 
by returning Cuchulainn should fail to fulfil what he 
had promised him in Emania, and thereby he would 
be shamed ; or that were he peradventure in spite of it 
to go eastward to learn soldierly feats, both known and 
unknown, of Aife, he should be still more likely to be 

^ The same account is given of Levarcham in the 'Siege of Howth.' 
The description seems in Irish romance intended to denote great strength 
or swiftness of body. 



THE WOOING OF EMER 73 

killed, being alone. Then, of his own free will, Ciichu- 
lainn departed from them along an unknown road, for 
the powers of the girl were great, and she wrought 
evil against him, and severed him from his companions. 

Now, when Cuchulainn went across Alba, he was sad 
and gloomy and weary for the loss of his comrades, 
neither knew he whither he should go to seek Scathach. 
For he had promised his comrades that he would 
not return again to Emain, unless he either reached 
Scathach or met his death (i>. he would not return 
unsuccessful, but would either find Scathach or die in 
the attempt). 

He now, seeing that he was astray and ignorant, 
lingered ; and while he was there, he beheld a terrible 
great beast like a lion coming towards him, which kept 
watching him, but did not do him any harm. Which- 
ever way he went, the beast went before him, turning 
its side towards him {i.e. inviting him to mount). Then 
he took a leap and was on its back. He did not guide 
it, but went wherever the beast liked. In that wise 
they journeyed four days, until they came to the 
uttermost bounds of men, and to an island where lads 
were rowing on a small loch. The lads laughed at the 
unwonted sight of the hurtful beast doing service to a 
man. Cuchulainn then leaped off, and the beast parted 
from him, and he bade it farewell. 

He passed on, and came to a large house in a deep 
glen, wherein was a maiden fair of form. The maiden 
addressed him, and bade him welcome. ' Welcome thy 
coming, O Cuchulainn I ' said she. He asked her how 
she knew him. She answered that they both had been 
dear foster-children with Wulfkin the Saxon, * when I 
was there, and thou learning sweet speech from him,' 



74 THE CUCHULLIN SAGA 

said she. She then gave him meat and drink and he 
turned away from her. Then he met a brave youth 
who gave him the same welcome. They conversed 
together, and Cuchulainn inquired of him the way to 
the dun of Scathach. The youth taught him the way 
across the Plain of Ill-luck that lay before him. On 
the hither half of the plain the feet of men would stick 
fast ; on the farther half the grass would rise and hold 
them fast on the points of its blades. The youth gave 
him a wheel,^ and told him to follow its track across 
one-half of the plain. He gave him also an apple, and 
told him to follow the way along which the apple ran, 
and that in such wise he would reach the end of the 
plain. Thus Cuchulainn (eventually) did go across 
the plain ; afterwards proceeding farther on. The youth 
had told him that there was a large glen before him, 
and a single narrow path through it, which was full of 
monsters that had been sent by Forgall to destroy him, 
and that his road to the house of Scathach lay across 
terrible high strong districts {t\e. mountain fastnesses). 
Then each of them wished a blessing to the other, 
Cuchulainn and the youth Eochu bairche. It was he who 
taught him how he should win honour in the house of 
Scathach. The same youth also foretold to him what 
he would suffer of hardships and straits in the Tdin B6 
Cuailgne, and what evil and exploits and contests he 
would achieve against the men of Erin. 

Then Ci!ichulainn, following the young man's instruc- 
tions, went on that road across the Plain of Ill-luck and 
through the Perilous Glen. This was the road that 

^ On the symbolism of the wheel, see an interesting study by Prof. Il{ 
Gaidoz, ' Le Dieu Gaulois du sohil et U symbolisme de la roue^ £tudes de 
Mythologie Gauloise^ 1886. 



THE WOOING OF EMER 75 

Cuchulainn took to the camp where the scholars of 
Scathach were. He asked where she was. * In yonder 
island/ say they. 'Which way must I take to reach 
her? ' said he. ' By the Bridge of the Cliff/ 1 say they, 
Twhich no man can cross until he has achieved valour.' 
For on this wise was that bridge. It had two low ends 
and the mid-space high, and whenever anybody leaped 
on one end of it, the other head would lift itself up 
and throw him on his back. Some versions relate 
that a crowd of the warriors of Erin were in that ddn 
learning feats from Scathach, namely, Ferdia* son of 
Daman, and Naisi son of Usnach, and Loch m6r son 
of Egomas, and Fiamain son of Fora, and an in- 
numerable host besides. But in this version it is not 
told that they were there at that time.' 

Cuchulainn tried three times to cross the bridge and 
could not do it. The men jeered at him. Then he 
grew mad,* and jumped upon the head of the bridge, 
and made ' the hero's salmon-leap/ so that he landed 
on the middle of it ; and the other head of the bridge 
had not fully raised itself up when he reached it, and 
threw himself from it, and was on the ground of the 
island. 

He went up to the diin, and struck the door with the 
shaft of his spear, so that it went through it. Scathach 
was told. * Truly/ said she, 'this must be some one 
who has achieved valour elsewhere.' And she sent her 

^ See Additional Notes on this tale. 

■ For Ferdta, see * Combat of Cuchulainn and Ferdia,* T. B. C. (sec. 
79) ; for Naisi, see ' Death of the Sons of Usnach ' ; for Loch m6r, see 
T. B. C. (sec. 58). 

' A scribal note incorporated into the text. 

* ' He grew mad,' i.e, his riastradh or distortion (of face and body) 
came upon him ; see T. B. C. (sec. 68) and note. 



76 THE CUCHULLIN SAGA 

daughter Uathach to know who the youth might be. 
. . .* Then Uathach came and conversed with Cuchu- 
lainn. On the third day she advised him, if it were 
to achieve valour that he had come, that he should go 
through the hero's salmon-leap to reach Scathach, in the 
place where she was teaching her two sons, Guar and 
Cett, in the great yew-tree ; that he should set his 
sword between her breasts until she yielded him his 
three wishes : namely, to teach him without neglect ; 
that without the payment of wedding-gifts he might 
wed Uathach ; and that she should foretell his future, 
for she was a prophetess. 

Ci!ichulainn then went to the place where Scathach 
was. He placed his two feet on the two edges of the 
basket of the cless^ and bared his sword, and put its 
point to her heart, saying, * Death (hangs) over thee I ' 

' Name thy three demands I ' said she ; * thy three 
demands, as thou canst utter them in one breath.' 
'They must be fulfilled,' said Cuchulainn. And he 
pledged her. . . . Uathach then was given to Cuchulainn, 
and Scathach taught him skill of arms. 

^ During the time that he was with Scathach, and was 
the husband of Uathach her daughter, a certain famous 
man who lived in Munster, by name Lugaid ' son of 
Nos, son of Alamac, the renowned king and foster- 
brother of Cuchulainn, went eastwards with twelve 
chariot chiefs of the high kings of Munster, to woo 
twelve maidens of the men of Mac Rossa, but they had 
all been betrothed before. 

^ We have omitted some minor incidents in the latter part of the tale. 
* This Lugaid, who is mentioned in the Tdin B6 Cuailgne (sec 56), is 
not to be confused with Ciichulainn's pupil, Lugaid of the Red Stripes. 



THE WOOING OF EMER 77 

When Forgall the Wily heard this, he went to Tara, 
and told Lugaid that the best maiden in Erin, both as 
to form and chastity and handiwork, was in his house 
unmarried. Lugaid said it pleased him well. Then 
Forgall betrothed the maiden to the king ; and to the 
twelve under-kings that were together with Lugaid, he 
betrothed twelve daughters of twelve landed pro- 
prietors in Bregia. 

The king accompanied Forgall to his dun for the 
wedding. 

When now Emer was brought to Lugaid, to sit by 
his side, she took between both her hands his two 
cheeks, and laid it on the truth of his honour and his 
life, confessing that it was Cuchulainn she loved, that 
Forgall was against it, and that any one who should 
take her as his wife would suffer loss of honour. Then, 
for fear of Cuchulainn, Lugaid did not dare to take 
Emer, and so he returned home again. 

Scathach was at that time carrying on war against 
other tribes, over whom the Princess Aife ruled. The 
two hosts assembled to fight, but Cuchulainn had been 
put in bonds by Scathach, and a sleeping-potion given 
him beforehand to prevent him going into the battle, 
lest anything should befall him there. She did this as 
a precaution (?). But, after an hour, Cuchulainn sud- 
denly started out of his sleep. This sleeping-potion, 
that would have held anybody else for twenty-four 
hours in sleep, held him only for one hour. He went 
forth with the two sons of Scathach against the three 
sons of Ilsuanach, namely, Cuar, Cett, and Cruife, three 
warriors of Aife's. Alone .he encountered them all 
three,- and they fell by him. On the next morning 



78 THE CUCHULLIN SAGA 

again the battle was set, and the two hosts marched 
forward until the two lines met, face to face. Then the 
three sons of Ess Enchenn advanced, namely, Cire, 
Bire, and Blaicne, three other of Aife's warriors, and 
began to combat against the two sons of Scathach. 
They went on the path of feats. Thereupon Scathach 
uttered a sigh, for she knew not what would come of 
it ; first, because there was no third man with her two 
sons against those three, and next, because she was 
afraid of Aife, who was the hardest woman-warrior in 
the world. Cuchulainn, however, went up to her two 
sons, and sprang upon the path, and met all three, and 
they fell by him. 

Aife then challenged Scathach to combat, and 
Cuchulainn went forth to meet Aife. (Before going) 
he asked what it was she (/>. Aife) loved most. 
Scathach said : ' What most she loves are her two 
horses, her chariot, and her charioteer.' Cuchulainn 
and Aife went on the path of feats, and began combat 
there. Aife shattered Cuchulainn's weapon, and his 
sword was broken off at the hilt. Then Cijchulainn 
cried : * Ah me, the charioteer of Aife, her two horses, 
and her chariot have fallen down the glen, and all have 
perished ! ' At that Aife looked up. 

Then Cuchulainn went up to her, seized her under 
her two breasts, took her on his back like a shoulder- 
load, and bore her away to his own host Then he 
threw her from him to the ground, and over her 
held his naked sword. * Life for life, O Ciichulainn ! ' 
said Aife. 'My three demands to me!* said he. 
*Thou shalt have them as thou breathest them,' she 
said. 'These are my three demands,' he said, '.that 
thou give hostage to Scathach, nor ever afterwards op- 



THE WOOING OF EMER 79 

pose her, that thou remain with me this night before 
thy dun, and that thou bear me a son.' ' I promise 
all this to thee,* said she. And in this wise it was 
done. Cuchulainn went with Aife^ and remained with 
her that night. Then Aife said she was with child, 
and that she would bear a boy. ' On this day seven 
years I will send him to Erin,' she said, 'and leave 
thou a name for him.' Cuchulainn left a golden 
finger-ring for him, and told her that the boy was to 
go and seek him in Erin, so soon as the ring should 
fit on his finger. And he said that Conla was the 
name to be given him, and charged her that he should 
not make himself known to any : also, that he should 
not turn out of the way of any man ; nor refuse combat 
to any. Thereupon Ci!ichulainn returned back again to 
his own people. 

As he went along the same road, he met an old 
woman on the road, blind of her left eye. She asked 
him to beware, and to avoid the road before her. He 
said there was no other footing for him, save on the 
cliff of the sea that was beneath him. She besought 
him to leave the road to her. Then he left the road, 
only clinging to it with his toes. As she passed over 
him she hit his great toe to throw him off the path, 
down the cliff. He noticed it, and leaped the hero's 
salmon-leap up again, and struck off the woman's head. 
She was Ess Enchenn, the mother of the last three 
warriors that had fallen by him, and it was in order to 
destroy him that she had come to meet him. 

^ This Amazonian princess was (he mother of Cuchulainn*s son, 
G>nnlacch or Conla. He was slain in ignorance by his own father, owing 
to his obedience to the command not to reveal his name. This is one 
of the ' Tragical Deaths ' of Irish story. See Keating's History and 
Miss Brooke's metrical rendering in Reliques 0/ Irish Poetry, 



8o THE CUCHULLIN SAGA 

After that the hosts returned with Scathach to her 
own land, and hostages were given to her by Aife. 
And Ciichulainn stayed there for the day of his 
recovery. 

At last, when the full lore of soldierly arts* with 
Scathach had been mastered by Ciichulainn — as well 
the apple-feat as the thunder-feat, the blade-feat, the 
supine-feat, and the spear-feat, the rope-feat, the body- 
feat, the cat's-feat, the salmon-feat of a chariot-chief ; 
the throw of the staff, the whirl of a brave chariot- 
chief, the spear of the bellows {gae bulga\ the boi of 
swiftness, the wheel-feat, the otkar feat, the breath-feat, 
the brud geme^ the hero's whoop, the blow . . ., the 
counter-blow ; running up a lance and righting the body 
on its point ; the scythe-chariot, and the hero's twisting 
round spear points — then came to him a message to 
return to his own land, and he took his leave. 

Then Scathach told him what would befall him in 
the future, and sang to him in the seer's large shining 
ken, and spake these words : ^ 

' Welcome, oh victorious, warlike . . . 
At the Lifting of the Kine of Bray [Bregia], 
Thou wilt be a chariot-chief in single combat. 
Great peril awaits thee. . . . 
Alone against a vast herd. . . . 
The warriors of Cruachan, thou wilt scatter them. 
Thy name shall reach the men of Alba. . . . 
Thirty years I reckon the strength of thy valour. 
Further than this I do not add.' 



^ See a long note on these feats by O'Beirne Crowe, Kilkenny Arch, 
founialy 1870-72, pp. 432-448. 

' This prophecy, of which the above are a few lines, foretells the part 
that Ciichulainn will play in the Tiin b6 Cuailgne. Compare the Morrigu's 
forewarning in * The Last Appearance of the Morrigu.' 



THE WOOING OF E^IER 8i 

Then Cuchulainn went on board his ship, to set out 
for Erin. These were the voyagers in the ship : Lugaid 
and Luan, the two sons of Ldch; Ferbaeth, Larin, 
Ferdia, and Durst son of Serb. They came to the 
house of Ruad, king of the Isles, on samAain-night^ 
Conall cemacA, and Laegaire buadach *The Triumphant/ 
were there before them levying tribute ; for at that 
time a tribute was paid to Ulster from the Isles of the 
Foreigners. 

Then Ci!ichulainn heard sounds of wailing before 
him in the dun of the king. ' What is that lamenta- 
tion ? ' asked Cuchulainn. ' It is because the daughter 
of Ruad is given as tribute to the Fomori/* said they. 

* Where is the maiden?' he said. They answered, 

* She is on the shore below.' Cuchulainn went down to 
the strand, and drew near to the maiden. He asked 
her the meaning of her plight, and she told him fully. 
Said he, * Whence do the men come ? ' * From that 
distant land yonder. Remain not here,' she said, ' in 
sight of the robbers.' But he remained there awaiting 
them, and he killed the three Fomori in single combat. 
The last man wounded him in the wrist, and the 
maiden gave him a strip from her garment to bind 
round his wound. Then he departed without making 
himself known to her. The maiden came to the dun, 
and told her father the whole story ; and afterwards 
came Cuchulainn to the dun, like every other guest. 
Conall and Laegaire bade him welcome, and there were 

^ f .«. the eve of the first of November, now called Hallowe'en. 

' The heavy exactions of the Fomori in Irish romance are doubtless 
reminiscent of the real tributes demanded by the Norsemen. See Fate 
of the Children of Tuireann (Soc. Pres. Irish Language), p. 70 ; Book 
of Rights^ ed. 0*Donovan, p. 207. 

F 



82 THE CUCHULLIN SAGA 

many in the dun who boasted of having slain the 
Fomori, but the maiden beh'eved them not. Then the 
king had a bath prepared, and afterwards each one 
was brought to her separately. Cuchulainn came, like 
all the rest, and the maiden recognised him. 

' I will give the maiden to thee/ said Ruad, ' and I 
myself will pay her wedding-dowry.' * Not so/ said 
Cuchulainn. ' But if it please her, let her follow me 
this day year to Erin ; there she will find me.' 

Then Cuchulainn came to Emain and related all his 
adventures. When he had cast his fatigue from him 
he set out to seek Emer at the rath of Forgall. For a 
whole year he remained near it, but could not approach 
her for the number of the watch. 

At the end of the year he came and said to his 
charioteer, * It is to-day, O Laegh, that we have our tryst 
with the daughter of Ruad, but we know not the exact 
place, for we were not wise. Let us go to the coast' 

When they came to the shore of Loch Cuan (Strang- 
ford Lough), they beheld two birds on the sea. Cuchu- 
lainn put a stone in his sling, and aimed at the birds. 
The men ran up to them, after having hit one of the 
birds. When they came up to them, lo ! they saw two 
women, the most beautiful in the world. They were 
Dervorgil, the daughter of Ruad, and her handmaid. 
* Evil is the deed that thou hast done, O Cuchulainn/ 
said she. * It was to meet thee we came, and now thou 
hast hurt us.' Cuchulainn sucked the stone out of her, 
with its clot of blood round it. ' I cannot wed thee 
now/ said Ciichulainn, * for I have drunk thy blood. 
But I will give thee to my companion here, Lugaid, of 
the Red Stripes.* And so it was done.^ 

^ Lugaid is one of the historical personages of the Saga. He is said 



THE WOOING OF EMER 83 

Then Ciicbulainn desired to go to the rath of Forgall. 
And that day the scythe-chariot was prepared for him. 
It was called the scythe-chariot on account of the iron 
scythes that stood out from it, or, perhaps, because it 
was first invented by the Serians. When he arrived at 
the rath of Forgall, he jumped the hero's salmon-leap 
across the three ramparts, so that he was on the ground 
of the dun. And he dealt three blows in the liss, so 
that eight men fell from each blow, and one escaped in 
each group of nine, namely, Scibur, Ibur, and Cat, three 
brothers of Emer. Forgall made a leap on to the 
rampart of the rath without, fleeing from Cuchulainn, 
and he fell lifeless. Then Cuchulainn carried off Emer, 
and her foster-sister, with their two loads of gold and 
silver, leaping back again across the third rampart, and 
so went forth. 

From every direction cries were raised around them. 
Scennmend * rushed against them. Ciichulainn killed 
her at the ford, hence called the ford of Scennmend. 
Thence they escaped to Glonddth, and there Cuchulainn 
killed a hundred of them. * Great is the deed {glond) 
that thou hast done,' said Emer ; ' to have killed an 
hundred armed able-bodied men.' * Glond-dth {i.e. the 
ford of deeds) shall be its name for ever/ said Cuchu- 
lainn. He reached Criifoit * Blood-turf,' which until 
then had been called Rae-bdn 'White Field.' He 
dealt great angry blows on the hosts in that place, so 
that streams of blood broke over it on every side. ' By 
thy work, the hill is covered with a blood-stained turf 
to-day, O Cuchulainn,' cried the maiden. Hence it is 
called CrUfoit or Cr6-f6t, ' Turf of Blood.' 

to have died of grief at the death of Dervorgil. There exists a tract 
entitled The Tragical Death of DervorgiL 
^ Forgairs sister. 



84 THE CUCHULLIN SAGA 

The pursuers overtook them at Ath n-Imfliait on the 
Boyne. Emer left the chariot, and Ci!ichulainn pursued 
them along the banks, the clods flying from the hoofs 
of the horses across the ford northward. Then he turned, 
and pursued them northward, so that the clods flew over 
the ford southward from the hoofs of the horses. Hence 
is it called the * Ford of the Two Clods,' from the flying 
of the sods hither and thither. Now at each ford from 
Ath Scennmend at Ollbine to the Boyne of Bray, 
Cdchulainn killed an hundred, and so he fulfilled all the 
deeds that he had vowed to the maiden, and he came 
safely out of all, and reached Emain Macha towards 
the fall of night. 

Emer was brought into the House of the Red Branch 
to Conchobar and to the men of Ulster, and they bade 
her welcome. . . . Cuchulainn then took to himself his 
wife, and thenceforward they were not separated until 
they died. 



THE SIEGE OF HOWTH 



This very ancient story, nvhich gives us a curious insight into the costoms 
of a barbarous epoch, is taken from the Book of Leinster, pp. 114/3-117 a 
of the facsimile. Only one other copy is catalogued by M. D'Arbois de 
Jubainville. It is one of the nine sieges or * forbosa ' mentioned in the 
LL. list of prime stories. That it was known as early as the tenth 
century is proved by its mention in a poem by Cin»d hua Artacain, who 
died in 975 a.d. 

The translation here given is by Dr. Whitley Stokes ; it has already 
appeared in Rev. Celt,^ viii. pp. 49-63, but has undergone some revision 
for the present work. 

The story as we have it is extremely condensed and abrupt ; it would 
appear to have been used as a skeleton to be filled in at the time of recita- 
tion. There is, perhaps, no tale in the entire cycle which impresses upon 
us so forcibly the rude manners of the time. The brutalities practised by 
Athairne ; his refusal of food during the siege, even to the king ; the 
pouring of the milk down the cliff when the wounded were dying of 
thirst ; the carrying of the heads of slain warriors in the belt, are all 
incidents belonging to an age of barbarity. Even here, however, a high 
code of honour is recognised in the refusal of Conall cermuh to fight with 
Mesgegra except on terms of exact equality. His hand is bound to his 
side because Mesgegra has only one hand. 



80 



VI 
THE SIEGE OF HOWTH 

There dwelt in Erin a hard, merciless man, to wit, 
Athairne the Extortionate of Ulster. A man that 
would ask the one-eyed for his single eye and used 
to demand the wife in child-bed. He was called the 
Extortionate because of a bardic circuit that he took 
through Ireland, by the counsel of Conchobar. . . } 
Now this was his intent, to leave heavy invectives upon 
the Leinstermen, so that they should slay him, and 
that then for ever Ulster should be avenging him upon 
Leinster.* 

Now the people of South Leinster came to meet him 
and to offer him jewels and treasures, not to come into 
their country, that he might not leave invectives upon 
them. For no treasure on which he laid his satire 
would remain (with its owner) unless a bribe were given 
to Athairne. But no reprisals would be given to any 
people or tribe by whom he should be slain. So that 
(for fear of him) any man would give him his wife, or 
the single eye out of his head, or his full desire of 
jewels and treasures. . . .* Athairne kept on the circuit 
of Leinster to the end of a year, and he took thrice 

^ The . . . denote that the passages retailing special examples of 
Athaime's cruelty and avarice have been omitted. . 
' I have transposed this passage for the sake of clearness. 

87 



88 THE CUCHULLIN SAGA 

fifteen queens of the wives of princes and nobles of 
Leinster to carry with him to his own country. 

'Well now, my lad/ said Athairne to his gillie, 'go 
thou on before me to the Ulstermen and bid them come 
to meet me. Meseemeth the Leinstermen will be plot- 
ting against me to recover my booty unless I appeal to 
their honour.* 

Then the Leinstermen accompanied Athairne to the 
banks of the Tolka on the north side of Dublin, and 
there they bade him farewell. And Athairne bade them 
farewell, but he left them no blessing and took none 
from them. 

Sorrowful were the Leinstermen that their wives 
should be taken from them into captivity to Ulster. 
So when Athairne came to Leinster the men of Lein- 
ster went to pursue their booty. And the men of 
Ulster met Athairne, coming to protect him. A battle 
was fought straightway, and the men of Ulster were 
routed, and they fled by the sea eastward till they were 
shut up in Ben Edair (Howth). Nine watches were 
they in Howth without drink, without food, unless 
indeed they should drink the brine of the sea, or devour 
the clay. Nevertheless Athairne himself had seven 
hundred kine in the middle of the fort ; but there was 
not a boy or man of Ulster who tasted the milk, for 
the milking was cast down the cliff, so that of the men 
of Ulster none might find out Athairne's food to taste 
it. And the wounded men were brought to him, but he 
would not let a drop go into their mouths, so that they 
bled to death unaided.* The chiefs of Ulster used to 
come to him entreating a drink for Conchobar, but they 
got nought from him. So that all that Conchobar had 

* Lit. 'alone.* 



THE SIEGE OF HOWTH 89 

for his support was what the girl Levarcham used to 
bring on her back from Emain Macha at times. A slave 
and a slave-girl were in Conchobar's house, and this was 
the child that was born to them, even the girl Levar- 
cham. Uncomely was the girl's shape, to wit, her two 
feet and her two knees behind her, her two hams and 
her two heels before her.^ She it was who used to travel 
through Ireland in one day, and everything of good and 
evil that was done in Ireland she used to relate to 
King Conchobar in the Red Branch at the end of the 
day. She it was that used to bring Conchobar his 
portion of food on her back from Emain to Howth. 

The fighting went on both day and night around the 
fort. Leinstermen say that it was they who built Dtin 
Edair {t,e, the fort or stronghold of Howth). Cuchu- 
lainn's gap is there without closing. Every one was 
inciting him to close it with a fence. 'Not so,' said 
Cuchulainn, 'a spear (?) of iron * closes it for me.' Con- 
chobar advised Cuchulainn not to put forth his full 
strength until fresh hosts should arrive from Ulster. 
For Levarcham had gone to muster the Ulstermen, and 
to bring them by sea or land to their aid. 

Mesdeadh, son of Amargen, a foster-son of Cuchu- 
lainn's, a boy of seven years, was put to keep the door 
of the fort. Every hour of the day nine men were slain 
by him, and the hostages of Ulster were brought forth 
by the Leinstermen thrice every day, and they were 
borne off likewise by Mesdeadh in combat. Where- 
fore it is on him that unequal combat was first practised 

^ This apparently indicates great strength and rapidity. The same 
peculiarity is mentioned regarding Cuchulainn at certain times of great 
excitement, and of DomoUa in the ' Wooing of Emer.* 

' ' Ciialgai,* See description of, T.B.C. (sec. 113) and note. 



90 THE CUCHULLIN SAGA 

in Ireland. This then is what they say, that when the 
Ulstermen landed in the east of Howth, three hundred 
heroes went to the wicket to slay him. There he gave 
forth his war-cry, as they were cutting off his head. 

And Cuchulainn heard it and said : ' It is the sky 
crashing, or the sea moaning, or the earth quaking, 
or else it is the war-shout of my foster-son against 
whom unequal combat is being practised.' 

With that Cuchulainn started out suddenly. The 
host was cleft in twain behind him. A battle was 
fought straightway. Heavy in sooth was the attack 
that they delivered. Bloody the mutual uplifting. 
Destructive the prowess which the heroes and cham- 
pions of valour displayed. 

The two lines of battle were joined from terce to 
none. There the Leinstermen were routed, so that 
they raised a red wall (of slain) against the Ulstermen, 
for it was a prohibition to Ulster to pass over a red 
wall. A great multitude of the men of Ulster fell like- 
wise in the fight. 

Then Conall cernach, ' the Victorious,' went forth alone 
in pursuit of the Leinstermen, to avenge his brothers, 
Mesdeadh and Loegaire, who had fallen in the fight. 
And he took the road past Dublin,^ and Drimnagh, 
through Hy-Gavla into Forcarthain, by Uachtar-Ard 
and Naas, to Clane. 

Now when the men of Leinster reached their country, 
each man of them went to his own place. But Mes- 
gegra (the king of Leinster) stayed behind the host 
alone with his charioteer at the path of Clane. 

* I will sleep now/ said the charioteer to Me^egra, 
*and thou shalt sleep afterwards.' 

^ Then called Alh cliath or < the ford of the hurdles.' 



THE SIEGE OF HOWTH 91 

* I deem it well/ said the king. 

Now while Mesgegra was looking at the water he 
saw a wonderful nut floating along the river towards 
him. Larger than a man's head was the nut. He went 
down (to the water) and caught the nut, and cleft it 
with his skene, and left half the kernel for the gillie. 
And he saw that the gillie was sitting upright in his 
sleep, and after that he awoke. 

' What ails thee, my lad ? ' said the king. 

' I have seen an evil vision,' said the gillie. 

' Catch the horses, my lad,' said the king. And the 
boy did so. 

' Hast thou eaten up the nut ? ' said the gillie. 

* Yea,' said the king. 

* Didst leave the half for me ? ' said the gillie.. 
' I lessened it first,' said the king. 

' The man that ate the little behind my back,' said 
the gillie, ' would also eat the much.' The king's hand, 
with half the kernel therein, was beside the boy. He 
attacked the king with a sword and cut off the hand. 

' That is ill done, O gillie,' said the king, * open my 
fist: half the kernel is therein.' When the boy saw 
that, he turned the sword against himself, and drove it 
through his back. 

' Alas, my lad ! ' said the king. 

Mesgegra himself yokes the chariot, putting his 
severed) hand into it before him. 

Now as he went out of the ford westwards Conall 
cernach * the Victorious ' entered it from the east. 

' Art thou there, O Mesgegra ? ' said Conall.* 

^ This conversation between Conall and Mesgegra is very difficult to 
understand. I presume the meaning to be as above. Literally it reads as 
follows: 'Is that so, O Mesgegra?* saith Conall. 'I am here,' saith 



92 THE CUCHULLIN SAGA 

* I am here/ said the king. 

' What follows ? ' said Conall. 

' This only remains to be done/ said Mesg^ra ; * if 
there are any from whom thou claimest debts, demand 
their restitution with all thy might' 

* I claim my brothers from thee/ said Conall. 

* I do not carry them (i>. their skulls) in my girdle/ 
said Mesgegra. 

* That is a pity/ said Conall. 

' It were not champion like/ said Mesgegra, 'to fight 
with me who have but one hand. 

' My hand shall be tied to my side/ said Conall. 

Triply was Conall cemacKs hand tied to his side.^ 
And each smote the other till the river was red with 
their blood. But the sword-play of Conall prevailed. 

* I perceive that thou wilt not go, O Conall/ said 
Mesgegra, 'till thou takest my head with thee. Put 
thou my head above thy head and add my glory to 
thy glory.' 

Then Conall severed his head from him in the Path 
of Clane, and Conall took the head and put it on the flag- 
stone on the ford's brink. A drop fell from the back 
of the head and went through the stone into the 
ground. Then he put Mesgegra's head on the stone, 
and it moved from the top of the stone to the ground, 
and moved on before him to the river. 

Mesgegra. 'What then?' saith Conall. 'What can be wished,' saith 
Mesgegra, ' but on him from whom thou claimest debts, make demand 
with all the might thou mayest have.' ' My brothers are with thee,' said 
Conall. 'Not in my girdle are they,' saith Mesgegra. 'That is a 
blemish,' saith Conall. This conversation is repeated almost word for 
word in the Death of Ctichulainn. 

^ So Lancelot fought with Sir Melagraunce with one hand, Sommer's 
Malory^ vol. i. Text, Bk. xix. chap. ix. p. 787. 



THE SIEGE OF HOWTH 93 

Conall * the cross-eyed ' was his name hitherto. For 
there were three among the men of Ulster who had 
blemishes : to wit, Conall the Cross-eyed and Ci!ichulainn 
the Blind, and Cuscraid the Mute. The women of 
Ulster divided themselves into three. Each loved one 
of these three. The kind that loved Cuchulainn, they 
used to be blind while conversing with him ; the kind 
that loved Conall cernach used to be cross-eyed while 
conversing with him ; the kind that loved Cuscraid the 
Mute used to be dumb while conversing with him.* 

Howbeit Conall put Mesgegra's head above his own 
head, and the head went over his shoulder, and he was 
straight-eyed from that hour. 

Then Conall got alone into his chariot, and his 
charioteer into Mesgegra's chariot They go forward 
then, into Uachtar Fine till they meet fifty women; 
namely, Buan, Mesgegra's wife, with her maidens, 
coming southward from the border. 

' Whose art thou,* O woman ? ' said Conall. 

* I am the wife of Mesgegra the king.' 

* It hath been enjoined on thee to come with me,' 
said Conall. 

' Who hath enjoined me? ' said the woman. 
' Mesgegra,' said Conall. 

' Hast thou brought a token with thee ? ' said she. 
' Behold his chariot and his horses,' said Conall. 

* Many are they on whom he bestows treasures,' said 
the woman. 

' Behold then his head,' said Conall. 
' Now am I lost to him I ' she said. 

^ Probably a scholastic gloss inserted in the text. 
• Lit. : • With whom art thou [i,e, to whom belongest thou), O woman?' 
saith Conall. 



94 THE CUCHULLIN SAGA 

Now the head at one moment flushed, and at an- 
other whitened again. 

* What ails the head ? ' said Conall. 

' I know/ said Buan. * A dispute arose between him 
and Athairne. He declared that no man of Ulster 
should ever bear me away. A struggle on account of 
his word, this it is that ails the head.' 

' Come thou to me/ said Conall, ' into the chariot/ 

* Stay/ she replied, * till I bewail my husband.' 
Then she lifted up her cry of lamentation, and even 

unto Tara and to Allen was her cry heard. And she 
cast herself backwards, dead. On the roadside is her 
grave, even Coll Buana ' the hazel of Buan/ from the 
hazel that grows through her grave.* 

* Bear the head hence, my lad/ said Conall. 

' I cannot bear the head with me,' says the gillie. 

* Then cut the brain out of it with thy sword/ said 
Conall, 'and bear the brain with thee, and mix lime 
therewith, and make a ball thereof.' * 

This was done, and the head was left beside the 
woman. And they journeyed onward till they reached 
Emain Macha. So the Ulstermen exulted at the slay- 
ing of the King of Leinster. 

This then is the circuit of Athairne, and the slaying 
of Mesgegra by Conall cernacA, and the battle of 
Howth. 

^ Compare the death of Detrdre in the ' Tragical Death of the Sons of 
Usnach/ lupra, p. 53. 

^ It was by means of this brain-ball that King Conchobar met his death. 
See ' Death of Conchobar,' in/raf pp. 267-269. 



THE DEBILITY OF THE ULTONIAN 

WARRIORS 



This fine story of a wife's self-sacrifice has evidently either been con» 
stnicted or altered to explain in a popular manner the extraordinary help- 
lessness that, at critical moments in the history of their province, fell upon 
the Ultonian warriors. (See Additional Note.) 

It is, as Mr. Nutt points out, the earliest occurence in post-classic European 
literature of the widely spread theme of the supernatural wife and the 
mortal husband, with whom she agrees to stay only so long as he observes 
certain conditions — not to mention her origin, not to ill-treat her, not to 
spy upon her — which she imposes. 

Our version is taken from the German renderings of Dr. Windisch, 
published by him with two texts, one from LL. p. 125/3 (fiicsimile), the 
other from MS. Harl., 5280, fol. 53 jS, in Berichte der AT. Sachs GtsclUchaft 
der fVissemchafien Philologisch-Hisiorische Classe^ 18S4. Dr. Windisch 
has there published two translations, which in our English rendering we 
have combined, using the second, which is fuller and longer, as the founda- 
tion, and notifying important additions from the LL. version by square 
brackets. 



00 



VII 

THE DEBILITY OF THE ULTONIAN 

WARRIORS 

There lived on the heights and in the solitudes of the 
hills a rich farmer of the Ultonians, Crundchu mac 
Agnoman by name. In his solitude great wealth 
accumulated to him. He had four sons around him. 
His wife, the mother of his children, died. For a long 
time he lived without a wife. As he was one day 
alone on the couch in his house, he saw coming into the 
mansion a young stately woman, distinguished in her 
appearance, clothing and demeanour. Macha was the 
woman's name, ut periti dicunt. She sat herself down 
on a chair near the hearth, and stirred the fire. She 
passed the whole day there, without exchanging a 
word with any one. She fetched a kneading-trough and 
a sieve and began to prepare the food. As the day 
drew to an end she took a vessel and milked the cow, 
still without speaking. 

When she returned to the house, she turned right 
about, went into his kitchen and gave directions to his 
servants; then she took a seat next to Crundchu. 
Each one went to his couch ; she remained to the last 
and put out the fire, turned right about again and laid 
herself down beside him, laying her hand on his side. 
For a long time they dwelt together. Through his 

G 



98 THE DEBILITY OF 

union with her, he increased yet more in wealth. His 
blooming appearance was delightful to her. 

Now the Ultonians frequently held great assemblies 
and meetings. All, as many as could go, both of men 
and women, went to the gathering. 'I, too/ said 
Crundchu, * will go like every one else to the assembly.' 

* Go not,' said his wife, * lest you run into danger by 
speaking of us ; for our union will continue only if you 
do not speak of me in the assembly.' 

'Then, indeed, I will not utter a word,* said Crundchu. 

The Ultonians gathered to the festival, Crundchu 
also going with the rest. It was a brilliant festival, 
not alone in regard to the people, but as to horses and 
costumes also. There took place races and combats, 
tournaments, games, and processions. 

At the ninth hour the royal chariot was brought 
upon the ground, and the king's horses carried the 
day in the contests. Then bards appeared to praise 
, ithe king and the queen, the poets and the Druids, his 
household, the people and the whole assembly. (The 
people cried), ' Never before have two such horses been 
seen at the festival as these two horses of the king : in 
all Ireland there is not a swifter pair !* 

* My wife runs quicker than these two horses,' said 
Crundchu. 

'Seize the man,' said the king, 'and hold him until 
his wife can be brought to the race-contest ! ' 

He was made fast, and messengers were despatched 
from the king to the woman. She bade the messengers 
welcome, and asked them what had brought them 
there. * We have come for you that you may release 
your husband, kept prisoner by the king's command, 
because he boasted that you were swifter of foot than 
the king's horses.' 



THE ULTONIAN WARRIORS 99 

* My husband has spoken unwisely/ said she ; * it 
was not fitting that he should say so. As for me» I am 
ill, and about to be delivered of a child.' 

' Alas for that/ said the messenger, ' for your husband 
will be put to death if you do not come.' 

* Then I must needs go/ she said. 

Forthwith she went to the assembly. Every one 
crowded round to see her. ' It is not becoming/ said 
she, 'that I should be gazed at in this condition. 
Wherefore am I brought hither ? ' * To run in contest 
with the two horses of the king/ shouted the multitude. 

' Alas ! ' she cried, * for I am close upon my hour.' 

* Unsheath your swords and hew yonder man to 
death,' said the king. 

[' Help me,' she cried to the bystanders, ' for a mother 
hath borne each one of you.] Give me, (O King), but 
a short delay, until I am delivered.' 

' It shall not be so/ replied the king. 
'Then shame upon you who have shown so little 
respect for me,' she cried. * Because you take no pity 
upon me, a heavier infamy will fall upon you.' [* What 
is your name ? ' asked the king. ' My name,' said she, 
'and the name of that which I shall bear, will for ever 
cleave to the place of this assembly. I am Macha, 
daughter of Sainreth mac in Botha.] Bring up the 
horses beside me ! ' It was done, and she outran the 
horses and arrived first at the end of the course. Then 
she gave vent to a cry in her pain, but God helped her, 
and she bare twins, a son and a daughter, before the 
horses reached the goal. [Therefore is the place called 
Emain Macha,* or * the twins of Macha.'] 

^ Lat., Emania. Now Navan Fort, two miles west of Annagh. For 
other supposed origins of the name see Ann. Four Masters, A. M. 4532, 



loo THE CUCHULLIN SAGA 

All who heard that cry were suddenly seized with 
weakness, so that they had no more strength than the 
woman in her pain. And she said, ' From this hour the 
ignominy that you have inflicted upon me will redound 
to the shame of each one of you. When a time of 
oppression falls upon you, each one of you who dwells 
in this province will be overcome with weakness, as 
the weakness of a woman in child-birth, and this will 
remain upon you for five days and four nights ; to the 
ninth generation it shall be so.' ^ 

Thus it was. It continued from the days of 
Crundchu to the days of Fergus mac Donnell [or till 
the time of Fore, son of Dalian, son of Mainech, son of 
Lugaid.] Three classes there were upon whom the 
debility of the Ultonians had no power, namely, the 
children and the women of Ulster, and Cuchulin,* 
because he was not descended from Ulster ; none, also, 
of those who were outside the province were afflicted 
by it. 

This is the cause of the Noinden Ulad or the De- 
bility of the Ultonians. 

and notes ; Cormac's Glossary ^ ed. Dr. W. Stokes, p. 63 ; 0*Curry MS. 
Afa/., Appendix No. xxxviii. pp. 526*528. 

^ The Cessndiden C//ad stems, however, to have lasted for a much longer 
time than this. See Tdin b6 Cuailgne (Prol. and sec. 94, 96, etc. ), and 
Additional Note. 

' This statement is contradicted by the stories of his birth in so far as 
they make him a son either of Sualtam or of Conchobar, and tends to 
prove that the story, which makes him a son of Lugh, is the oldest form. 



THE APPEARANCE OF THE 

MORRIGU 



This tale and the one immediately preceding it are two of the tales called 
remscila^ or Introductory Tales to the Tdin b6 Cuailgne. The Book of 
Leinster gives a list of ten such tales, but they are very variously reckoned, 
stories even so indirectly connected with the T^in as ' The Vision of Angus 
mac in Daghda/ the ' Births of Conachar and Cuchullin,' and the ' Wooing 
of Emer,' being sometimes included. It shows the importance attached 
to the T^in b6 Cnailgne by Irish romanticbts that these tales were con- 
sidered as merely preparatory to the great Epic. Most of the rtmseila 
have been translated into either English or German, and a fairly complete 
list of them will be found in the Chart of the Saga. The tale here 
piinted is one of those early romances that appear to have escaped the 
improving hand of the ecclesiastical copyist. It retains its wild pagan 
flavour to the full. It introduces to us the Morrigu or Morrigan, ' Great 
Queen,* wife of the Dagda, the most prominent of the three fierce Irish 
female gods of war, sisters, of whom the other two were Badb and Macha, 
also frequently met with in the tales. They are the Irish Valkyre-maidens. 
The Morrigu appears to have a special interest in Cuchullin, but is not 
invariably found fighting on his side. She plays an important and very 
dignified rdle in the Tdin b6 Cuailgne. 

This tale should be compared with the TAin M Aingen, to which it 
bears a close resemblance. The title Tdin b6 Regamna is not found in 
the LL. recension, nor does the word occur in the tale. Dr. Windisch 
thinks that it may be a corruption of an older title, 'Tdin b6 M6rrigna.' 
Our translation is made from the German of Dr. Windisch, published in 
Irische Texte, zweite serie, 2 heft. Two texts of the tale are there given, 
that from the Golden Book of Lecan, col. 648, line 12 fT, and that from 
Egerton, 1782, p. 148. 



102 



VIII 

THE APPEARANCE OF THE MORRIGU^ TO 
CUCHULLIN BEFORE THE tAiN b6 
CUAILGNE (called the TAiN b6 Regamna). 

When Cuchullin lay in sleep in Dun Imrid, he heard 
a cry sounding out of the north, a cry terrible and 
fearful to his ears. Out. of a deep slumber he was 
aroused by it so suddenly, that he fell out of his bed 
upon the ground like a sack, in the east wing of the 
house. 

He rushed forth without weapons, until he gained 
the open air, his wife following him with his armour 
and his garments. He perceived Laegh in his harnessed 
chariot coming towards him from Ferta Laig in the 
North. 'What brings thee here?' said Cuchullin. 
' A cry that I heard sounding across the plain,' said 
Laegh. ' From which direction ? ' said Cuchullin. 
'From the north-west,' said Laegh, 'across the great 
highway leading to Caill Cuan.' 'Let us follow the 
sound,' said Cuchullin. 

They go forward as far as Ath da Ferta. When 
they arrived there, they heard the rattle of a chariot 
from the loamy district of Culgaire. They saw before 

* Cf, 'Second Battle of Moytura,' ed. Dr. W. Stokes, pp. loi, 109, 
III, Rev. Celi,y vol. xii., and ' Battle of Magh Rath/ ed. by J. O'Donovan, 
p. 199, Irish Arch. Soc. 1842. 

103 



104 THE APPEARANCE OF THE 

them a chariot harnessed with a chestnut horse. The 
horse had (but) one leg, and the pole of the chariot passed 
through its body, so that the peg in front met the 
halter passing across its forehead. Within the chariot 
sat a woman, her eye-brows red, and a crimson 
mantle round her. Her mantle fell behind her between 
the wheels of the chariot so that it swept along the 
ground. A big man went along beside the chariot. 
He also wore a coat [of crimson], and on his back he 
carried a forked staff of hazelwood, while he drove a 
cow before him. 

* The cow is not pleased to be driven on by you/ said 
Cuchullin. 'She does not belong to you,' said the 
woman ; ' the cow is not owned by any of your friends 
or associates.' 'The cows of Ulster belong to me,' 
said Cuchullin. 'You would give a decision about the 
cow I ' said the woman ; ' you are taking too much 
upon yourself, O Cuchullin 1 * 

'Why is it the woman who accosts me?' said 
Cuchullin. ' Why is it not the man ? ' * It is not the 
man to whom yo\i addressed yourself,' said the woman. 
' Oh yes,' said Cuchullin, * but it is you who answer for 
him.' ' He is Uar-gaeth-sceo Luachair-sceo.' ' Well, 
to be sure, the length of the name is astonishing I ' said 
Cuchullin. 'Talk to me then yourself, for the man 
does not answer. What is your own name?' 'The 
woman to whom you speak,' said the man, ' is called 
Faebor beg-beoil cuimdiuir folt scenb-gairit sceo uath.' 

' You are making a fool of me 1 ' said Cuchullin. 
And he made a leap into the chariot. He put his two 
feet on her two shoulders, and his spear on the parting 
of her hair. 

' Do not play your sharp weapons on me ! ' she said. 



MORRIGU TO CUCHULLIN 105 

* Then tell your true name/ said CuchuUin. * Go further 
off from me then/ said she. ' I am a female satirist, 
and he is Daire mac Fiachna of Cuailgne ; I carry off 
this cow as a reward for a poem.' ' Let us hear your 
poem/ said CuchuUin. ' Only move further off/ said 
the woman. 'Your shaking over my head will not 
influence me.' Then he moved off until he was between 
the two wheels of the chariot. Then she sang to 
him. . . } 

CuchuUin prepared to spring again into the chariot ; 
but horse, woman, chariot, man, and cow, all had dis- 
appeared.* 

Then he perceived that she had been transformed 
into a black bird on a branch close by him. ' A 
dangerous enchanted woman you are I ' said CuchuUin. 

* Henceforth this Grellach shall bear the name of the 
" enchanted place " {dolluid)^ said the woman ; and 
Grellach Dolluid was it called. 

' If I had only known that it was you/ said CuchuUin, > 
' we should not have parted thus.* * Whatever you have C 
done/ said she, * will bring you ill-luck.* * You cannot 
harm me/ said he. ' Certainly I can/ said the woman. 
' I am guarding your death-bed, and I shall be guarding 
it henceforth.® I brought this cow out of the Sidh of 
Cruachan so that she might breed by the bull of Daire 
mac Fiachna, namely the Donn of Cuailgne.* So long 

^ The song is not given ; it was evidently a challenge or an insult. 

* The Morrigu, like her sister Badb, was capable of transforming herself 
into many forms, especially that of a scall-crow. Comp. Battle of Muir- 
themne, infra^ p. 240 and p. 260 note 2. See Grimm*s TetU, Myth,^ ed. 
Stallybrass, vol. i. pp. 417-426. 

* Hennessy {Rev, Celt,^ vol. i. p. 47) translates thus, *It is protecting . 
thee I was, am, and will be.' 

* ut, the Bull which caused the T4in b6 Cuailgne. 




io6 THE APPEARANCE OF THE 

as her calf shall be a yearling, so long shall thy life be ; 
and it is this that shall cause the Tdin B6 Cuailgne.' 

' My name shall be all the more renowned in conse- 
quence of this Tdin/ said the hero : 

[ shall strike down their warriors 
[ shall fight their battles 
[ shall survive the Tdin ! ' 

' How wilt thou manage that ? ' said the woman ; ' for, 
when thou art engaged in a combat with a man as 
strong, as victorious, as dexterous, as terrible, as 
untiring, as noble, as brave, as great as thyself, I 
will become an eel, and I will throw a noose round thy 
feet in the ford, so that heavy odds will be against 
thee.' 

* I swear by the God by whom the Ultonians swear/ 
said Cuchullin, ' that I will bruise thee against a green 
stone of the ford ; and thou never shalt have any 
remedy from me if thou leavest me not' ' I shall also 
become a fifrey wo lf for thee, and I will take (...?) 
from thy right hand, as far as to thy left arm.' 

* I will encounter thee with my spear,* said he, ' until 
thy left or right eye is forced out ; and thou shalt 
never have help from me, if thou leavest me not.' 

* I will become a white red-eared cow,' said she, 
' and I will go into the pond beside the ford, in which 
thou art in deadly combat with a man, as skilful in 
feats as thyself, and an hundred white red-eared cows 
behind me; and I and all behind me will rush into 
the ford, and the "Faithfulness of men"^ will be 

^ ue, fairness in combat or 'fair play,' a common expression in the 
tales. See 'Siege of Howth' and 'Death of Cuchulainn,' where the 
' truth of men ' is demanded by the combatants, and cf. Silva GcuieHca^ 
vol. ii. p. 403. 



MORRIGU TO CUCHULLIN 107 

brought to a test that day, and thy head shall be cut 
off from thee.' ^ 

' I will with my sling make a cast against thee/ said 
he, 'so that thy right or thy left leg will be broken, 
and thou shalt never have help from me, if thou dost 
not leave me.' 

Thereupon the Morrigu departed into the Sidh of 
Cruachan in Connacht,' and Cuchullin returned to his 
dwelling. 

This, then, is one of the introductory tales to the 
TAin B6 Cuailgne. 



^ This whole passage b found almost word for word in the T^n b6 
Aingen. For the fulfilment of the prophecy see 'Cuchullin's Comhat 
with L6ch More ' in the Tdin b6 Cuailgne (sec 58.) 

' This is according to Lc. ; Eg. has 'Thereupon the Badb departed.' 



THE CATTLE-SPOIL OF COOLEY 

{Tdtn bd Cuailgne) 



This, the most famous romance of ancient Ireland, is preserved, according 
to M. D'Arbois' Catalogue, in fifteen MSS., ranging from the nth to the 
19th century. O'Curry has quoted largely from the tale in his Manners 
and Customs of the Anciettt Irish^ and has given a brief analysis of its 
contents in his Lectures on the MS. Materials of Irish History (pp. 31- 
40). Studies on the Tiin b6 Cuailgne have been published by Professor 
B. O'Looney, in Proc. R.I.A., second series, vol. L 1879, PP* 242-248, 
and on the LU. version, by Professor H. Zimmer in Keltische Studien 
{Zeitschriftfiir VergJeichende sprachforschung^ band xxviii. 1887). 

No complete edition of the Epic has, however, as yet been published, 
nor has any translation of the whole been made. The present analysis, 
contributed to this work by Standish Hayes O'Grady, is made from a MS. 
in the British Museum marked Add. 18748, p. 57, 1800, a.d. (copied from 
a MS. of 1730). It coincides in the main outline of events with the far 
earlier Book of Leinster version, (1150, a.d.) Where differences occur, 
these are noted in the references on the margin. It does not purport to 
be in any sort a critical translation, but it furnishes an outline of the 
episodes in their natural sequence, and is in parts a sufficiently fiill 
and close reproduction of the original to answer all the purposes of the 
non-critical reader. It is intended primarily for English readers, not for 
Irish scholars. The Tdin falls naturally into the following divisions : — 
(a) Prologue, (b) Gathering of the hosts of Erin, and preliminary move- 
ments of the forces of Meave (Sees. 1-15.) [c) Episode of Cuchullin's 
Boy-deeds (Sees. 16-29.) {d) Combats and progress of the host, ending 
in the Brislech m6r of Mngh Muirthemne (Sees. 30-72.) {e) Final Con- 
flicts, the Awakening of Ulster, the Gathering on the Hill of Slane, with 
the Final Battle of Gairech and Ilg&irech and the Deaths of the Finn- 
bennach and the Donn of Cuailgne (Sees. 73-130.) 

The general course followed by the forces of Meave is shown on the 
map by a dotted line. In the Appendices will be found an outline of the 
march day by day, and a list, drawn up by the Translator, of the several 
corps of Ulster's host in their gathering on the Hill of Slane. In it the 
names of the leaders as given in LL. are compared with those contained 
in the modern MS. from which this translation is made. 



110 



IX 

THE tAin b6 cuailgne 

PROLOGUE 

* BOLSTER-CONVERSATION ' OF AILELL AND MEAVE 

LL. 53 p. It was once upon a time when Ailell and 
Meave were in Rath-Cruachan ^ of Connacht, and 
they had spread their royal couch. Between them 
then ensued a 'bolster-conversation.' 'Woman/ said 
Ailell, * a true saying 'tis : " a good man's wife is 
good." ' * Good indeed,' she answered, * but why 
quotest thou the same ? ' * For this reason I quote it : 
because to-day thou art better than thou wast the day 
I married thee.' * I was good before [ever I had to do 
with] thee,' she retorted. ' How well we never heard 
nor ever knew that,' said Ailell ; * but merely that 
thou didst trust to female woman - means, while 
enemies of the borders immediately adjoining thee did 
violently lift from thee thy plunder and thy preys.' 
* Not so I was,' the queen rejoined ; ' but with my 
father, Eochaid feidlech to wit, king of Ireland. Who 
in the way of daughters had six girls : Dcrbriu, Ethi, 
Ele, Clothru, Miigain, and myself, Meave, noblest of 

^ Remains of the rath still exist at Rath Croghan, co. Roscommon. 
For a description of it see T4in b6 Fraich^ pp. 139*141 ; Proc. R.I. A., 
Irish MS. Series, vol. i. pt. i. 1870. 

Ill 



112 THE tAin b6 cuailgne 

them and most worshipful. As regards wage-giving 
and largess, I was the best of them ; as regards battle, 
strife and combat, I was the best of them. I it was 
who in front had fifteen hundred royal mercenaries 
from among adventurers' sons and, in the centre, their 
equivalent of [home-bred] chieftains' sons; with ten men 
for every mercenary, and eight for every mercenary, 
and seven for every mercenary, and six for every 
mercenary, and five for every mercenary, and three for 
every mercenary, and two for every mercenary, and 
for every mercenary a man. These,' she continued, 
' I had to my standing household ; for which reason 
my father gave me one of the provinces of Ireland : 
the province of Cruachan, whence again the designation 
" Meave of Cruachan " is given me. From Finn mac 
Rosa Rua, king of Leinster, an embassage came to sue 
for me; also from Cairbre Niafer mac Rosa, king of 
Tara; from Conachar mac Fachtna king of Ulidia 
there came one, and yet again from Eochu Beg. Yet 
went I not ; for I was she that required a strange 
bride-gift, such as never from any man of the men of 
Erin woman had demanded : a man without penurious- 
ness, devoid of jealousy, of fear. For should the 
man with whom I found myself be penurious, it were 
not apt for us to be together, because that in the 
matter of wage and of free gift I am liberal. Where- 
fore to my husband it were a reproach that in wage- 
giving I in comparison with him were the better ; but 
to have us equally good were no reproach, so long as 
really good we were, both of us. Again, were my 
husband timorous, it were not fitting that we kept 
company ; for of myself alone I have the victory in 
battles, contests and affrays, so that to my husband 



PROLOGUE 113 

It were a disgrace to have his wife more " lively ^ " than 
himself; while for them to be equally lively were no 
disgrace, so long as veritably lively they were, both of 
them. Were he that had me jealous, neither so would 
it suit ; for never, I trow, have I been without a man 
under pretext of another. Now such a husband have 
I gotten : even thyself, Ailell mac Rosa Rua of 
Leinster. Thou art not stingy, not jealous, not a 
dastard. Contract and wedding-gifts I gave thee in 
best style appertaining to a woman : of raiment, so 
much as was twelve men's outfit ; a chariot worth thrice 
seven bondmaids ; thy face's width of ruddy gold, thy 
left forearm's circumference of a white bronze bracelet. 
Whoso inflicts on thee trouble or annoyance, or cozens 
thee, for thee in comparison is nor fine nor honour- 
price other than that there is for me, seeing that a 
petticoat-pensioner is what thou art' * Not so was I,' 
Ailell objected ; ' but I had two brethren : a man of 
them reigning over Tara, and one over Leinster; as 
Finn over Leinster and Cairpre over Tara ; to whom 
because of their seniority I had conceded the rule. 
Neither in respect of wage art thou better than I, nor 
as regards largess ; nor (saving only this province) 
have I heard that any province in Ireland ever was 
under woman-regimen. I came therefore, and in virtue 
of my mother (that is to say, because Magach's 
daughter, Mata of Murrisk, was my mother) here I 
assumed the sway ; and than thyself what queen that 
I could have were better for me, because thou art 
daughter of a monarch of all Ireland?' * A fact it is/ 
Meavc began again, ' that my substance is better than 
thine.' Ailell made answer : * We wonder at that, for 

^ An epithet commonly used in the sense of energetic, vigorous. 

H 



114 THE tAiN b6 CUAILGNE 

there is not one who in jewels, in wealth and treasure, 
abounds more than do I, and thou knowest that there 
is not' 

[First of all,] to the end they should know whether 
of them it was for whom precious things and wealth 
and treasure did the more abound, there were pro- 
duced for them such as were the humblest of their 
valuables : their mugs and vats and iron vessels, their 
urns and brewers' troughs, and kieves. [In the next 
place] their rings were brought out for them, their 
bangles and divers clasped ornaments, their thumb- 
rings and their apparel : as well crimson as blue and 
black and green, yellow and chequered and buff, wan- 
coloured, pied and striped. From greens and lawns 
and open country their great flocks of sheep were 
driven for them. These were told over, counted and 
numbered, and were recognised to be even : equal in 
bulk and in multitude the same ; among Meave's sheep 
was a notable ram that might be accepted as a bond- 
woman's equivalent, and among Ailell's sheep was 
another that answered to him. From grass-grazings 
and from pastures their horse-herds and their steeds 
were brought in : in Meave's troop was a special horse, 
acceptable in lieu of a bondmaid ; Ailell had one to 
match him. Out of woods and shelving glens and 
devious tracts, their vast herds of swine were brought 
for them ; they were told over and counted and cognis- 
ance was taken of them : Meave had an eminent boar ; 
but Ailell had another. Again, from out the forests 
and wastes of the province their kine-herds of cows, 
their cattle, their flitting-droves, were collected for 
them. They were counted and numbered and cognis- 
ance was taken of them : they proved to be even, of 



PROLOGUE IIS 

equal bulk and in multitude the same ; among Ailell's 
kine, however, was an especial bull which indeed had 
been calf of one of Meave's cows (his name also being 
"the White-horned"), but he deemed it unbecoming to 
be under petticoat-rule, and so had departed and 
taken his place among the king's cattle/ And now, 
because among her kine she had not a bull of his size, 
in Meave's esteem it was as though she owned no 
penny's worth of stock. 

Then it was that Meave saw Mac Roth the herald 
draw nigh, and the queen required of him that he 
should find out where, in any province of Ireland's 
provinces, might be a bull altogether similar to him 
aforesaid. * Verily,' said Mac Roth, * I know where 
there is a bull which in double measure is better and 
more excellent; in the triucha of Cuailgne namely, 
in Daire mac Fachtna's house, and Donn Cuailgne, 
" the Brown of Cuailgne," is his name.' * Thither away 
with thee, Mac Roth! and of Daire crave for me a 
year's loan of the Brown ; at which year's end the 
bull's loan-fee shall be paid to Daire, that being fifty 
heifers, beside the Brown himself. Another condition 
also convey thou, Mac Roth: should they of those 
borders and of that country think ill of giving up 
[even for a time] that extraordinary precious thing 
the Brown of Cuailgne, then let Daire himself come 
with his bull, and of smooth Magh Ai shall be settled 
on him an area equalling that of his own lands, with 
a chariot of [the value of] thrice seven bondmaids and 
mine own close friendliness to boot' 

On which mission accordingly the messengers pro- 
ceeded to Daire mac Fachtna's house, the number with 
which Mac Roth travelled being nine messengers. 



ii6 THE tAiN b6 CUAILGNE 

In Daire's house in due time welcome was ofTered 
him ; as was but reasonable, Mac Roth being all 
Ireland's chief herald. 

Daire inquired of him what had caused him to make 
the journey, and what was that concerning which he 
was come. The herald tells him what the matter is 
about which he is there: that is to say, he tells him 
how between Ailell and Meave there has been a 
controversy ; ' and/ he goes on, * it is to crave a loan 
of the Brown Bull of Cuailgne for the purpose of 
matching the white-horned that I am come. There 
shall accrue to thee his loan's fee : fifty heifers, beside 
the Brown himself back again. Somewhat further yet 
there is too : come thou with thy bull, and of smooth 
Magh Ai thou shalt have a parcel to equal thine own 
lands' extent, a chariot of thrice seven bondmaids, 
with (over and outside of all) Meave's intimate friend- 
ship.* This well pleased Daire, and he threw himself 
about in such wise that the seams of the bed-ticks 
under him burst asunder. Then he said : ' By our 
conscience's good faith, and whatever be the spirit in 
which the Ultonians shall take it, this treasure (the 
Brown Bull of Cuailgne namely) for Ailell's and for 
Meave's pleasure even now shall be taken into the land 
of Connacht' 

To Mac Roth in his turn, that which Fiachna's son 
said gave pleasure. 

Then they of Connacht were ministered to, and 
rushes and fresh sedge were strawed under them. 
Delicate viands were supplied to them ; in fact a feast 
was served to them, whereby they became muddled 
and confused. 

Now between two messengers of them a dialogue 



PROLOGUE 117 

took place, as this : * A true word it is/ quoth the one, 
'that good is the man in whose house we are.* 
' Good indeed,' said the other. * Of the Ultonians is 
there at all a man better than he ? ' pursued the first. 
'There is so,* the second answered, 'Conachar is better; 
whose man he is, and to whom though all the Ultonians 
rallied, surely it were no shame to them/ * Great good- 
ness truly it is for him to have yielded to us nine 
messengers, that which it had been the work of Ireland's 
four provinces to carry away out of Ulster's coasts : 
[I mean] the Brown of Cuailgne.' 

[At this point] a third messenger dropped on them 
as they conversed, and : ' What is the matter of your 
discourse?' she asked. *It is that yonder messenger 
says: **A good man, he of the house in which we 
are."' *Good indeed,' says another. 'Is there at all 
of Ulster a man better than he?' insisted the first. 
* There is so,' quoth the second messenger : * Conachar, 
whose man he is, is better ; to whom though all Ulster 
rallied, surely it were no shame for them.' * Great stout- 
ness truly it is for him to have yielded to us — to us 
nine messengers — a work which it had been the work 
of Ireland's four great provinces to fetch out of 
Ulster's coasts.* 'Fain would I see a rush of blood 
and gore in the mouth out of which that comes ; for 
though by fair means it were not brought off, yet 
should it be by foul.' 

Here Daire mac Fiachna's official dispenser entered 
the house, he having with him a man charged with 
liquor and another laden with meat ; he heard what 
the messengers expressed, and anger invaded him. 
He caused unload his meat and drink to them, but 
never told them either to use or not to use them. 



u8 THE tAiN b6 CUAILGNE 

Thereupon he went into the house hi which Daire mac 
Fiachna was, and said : ' Is it thou that to the messengers 
hast yielded that briUiant treasure, the Brown Bull of 
Cuailgne ? ' * Tis I indeed,' was Daire's answer. ' Where 
he was given up there was no governance ; for the thing 
they say is true : that what thou givest not of free will, 
the same by instrumentality of Ailell's and Meave's 
host, and of Fergus mac Rdich's unerring guidance, thou 
shalt grant perforce.' *By my gods whom I adore I 
swear that, unless by foul means they shall take him, 
he never shall be theirs.' 

Early on the morrow the messengers rose and went 
into the house where Daire was, and said : * Show us 
the way now, noble sir, that we gain the spot in which 
the Brown of Cuailgne is.' *Not so, indeed,* he an- 
swered ; * but [on the contrary] were it wont of mine to 
deal treacherously with messengers, or with them that 
travel, or with folk that walk the way, never a one 
of you should escape alive.* * Why, what is this ? ' 
inquired Mac Roth. ' Great cause there is for it : ye 
have said that, though I gave not freely, yet for 
Ailell's and Meave's host and for Fergus mac R6ich's 
skilled guidance I must give perforce.' * Come, come,' 
said Mac Roth, * whatever [common] messengers may 
say as the outcome of thy drink and meat, not any 
such thing is it as may be heeded, or that to Ailell 
and to Meave may be made ground of rebuke.' 'Never- 
theless, Mac Roth, and if so it may be, this time I will 
not give my bull.' 

In compliance with which the messengers returned 
and came to Rath-Cruachan of Connacht. Meave 
sought tidings of them, and Mac Roth declared them : 
that from Daire they had not brought back his bull. 



PROLOGUE 119 

' What was the cause of that ? ' Mac Roth tells her 
how it was, and the queen announced : ' This case, Mac 
Roth, is not one in which perspicacity has to be applied 
to riddles ; it was known that the Brown Bull would not 
be given by fair means but must be had by foul, as so 
indeed he shall be given.' 

This then that precedes is the Cause of TAiN BO 
CUAILGNE : the ' Driving of the Kine of Cuailgne.' 

Meave*s Hosting 

LL. 55 a, — From Meave now messengers went to the 
Maines, that they should come to Cruachan: the seven 
Maines with their seven triuchas, as Maine maithremail^ 
Maine aithremail^ Maine condaghaib uile^ Maine min" 
ghor^ Maine tnSrg/tor^ and Maine condamoepert 

Messengers went to the sons of Magach : [who were] 
Cet, Aunluan, Maccorb, Bascell, En, Doche, Scandal. 
They canie, and their numbers were thirty hundreds of 
armed men. 

Other messengers went from them to Conachar's son 
Cormac conloingeas^ and to Fergus mac R6ich. They 
came, and their numbers were thirty hundreds. 

The first corps of all : they had on them black heads 
of hair and, about them, green mantles held with 
silver brooches ; next to their skins, shirts of gold 
thread bearing raised patterns of red gold ; swords 
with white gripes they wore, and with guards of silver. 

The second corps : they had new-cut hair and, about 
them all, grey cloaks ; next to their skins, pure-white 
shirts ; they wore swords with knobbed hilts of gold, 
with guards of silver. 'Is that Cormac yonder?' all 
asked. * It is not indeed,' said Meave. 

The last corps: flowing hair they had, fair-yellow 



I20 THE TAIN b6 CUAILGNE 

• 

manes with sheen of gold, and all cast loose. Crimson 
mantles with cunning device of ornament enwrapped 
them, and at their breasts they had golden jewelled 
brooches. Silken shirts, fine-textured, long, touched 
the middle of their feet [insteps]. In unison they both 
lifted their feet and put them down. * Is that yonder 
Cormac ? ' all inquired, and : ' Ay is it,' Meave replied. 

So that night they pitched and encamped, and 
between the four fords of Aei^ — Athmaga, Athbercna, 
Athslisen, and Athcoltna — there was a mass of smoke 
and fire. Until the far end of a fortnight they tarried 
in Rath-Cruachan of Connacht, with quaffing and all 
pleasure, so that all the more lightly anon they should 
face their travel and their hosting. At which time it 
was that Meave bade her charioteer to put-to her 
horses for her ; to the end she should go and confer 
with her wizard, to require of him foreknowledge and 
prophecy.* 

When she had gained the place where her magician 
was, she required of him foreknowledge and prediction 
accordingly, saying: 'Many there be which this day, 
and here, do part from their familiars and their friends, 
from their country and from their lands, from father 
and from mother. Now if so it be that not all of them 
return safe and sound, upon me it is that they will 
discharge their lamentation and their curses. For all 
which, however, there neither goes forth, nor yet stays 
there behind, any that to us is dearer than are we our- 
selves. Thou therefore find out for us whether we come 

^ Magh Aei was a district in central Connacht. 

* For the curious rites by which a knowledge of the future was sought, 
see Senchus mdr^ vol. i. p. 45, and Cormac's Glossary^ ed. W. Stokes, 
firt. ' Imbas forosnai,' pp, 94, 95, 



PROLOGUE 121 

back or not. The wizard answered: 'Whosoever comes 
or comes not, thou thyself shalt come.* 

The driver wheels round the chariot, and the queen 
returns. But lo, she saw a thing that was a marvel to her : 
a woman close to her, on the chariot's shaft and facing 
her. The damsel's manner was this : in her right hand she ^ 
held a [weaver's] sword of white bronze with seven head- 
ings of red gold on its ends, and wove a bordering. A ; 
spot-pied cloak of green enveloped her, and in it at her 
breast there was a bulging massive brooch. She had a 
high-coloured, rich-blooded face ; a blue and laughing 
eye ; lips red and thin ; glistening pearly teeth, which \ 
indeed you might have taken for a shower of white 
pearls fallen and packed into her head. Like unto fresh 
coral were her lips. Sweeter than strings of peaked 
harps played by long-practised masters' hands was the : 
sweet sound of her voice, of her gentle utterance. 
Whiter than snow shed during a single night was the 
lustre of her skin and flesh, filtered through and past 
her raiment. Feet she had that were long and most ^, 
white ; nails pink and even, arched and pointed ; fair- ^ 
yellow gold-glittering hair : three tresses of it wound 
round her head, while yet another fell downwards and * 
cast its shade below her knee.^ 

Meave scanned her, and : ' Girl,' she said, ' at this time, 
and here, what doest thou ? ' The young woman an- 
swered : ' I reveal thy chances and thy fortunes, and 
Ireland's four great provinces I gather up and muster 
against the Raid for the Kine of Cuailgne.' * And for 
me wherefore dost thou this ? ' * Great cause I have,' 
the girl explained ; ' for I am a woman bondmaid 
of thy people.' 'And who art thou of my people?' 

* Lit 'upon her calf.* 



122 THE tAin b6 cuailgne 

* I am Feidelm the prophetess, out of Cruachan's fairy 
hill.' 'Well, then, O prophetess Feidelm, how seest 
thou our host?* *I see them all in red, I see them 
all becrimsoned.' * Yet in Emania, Conachar for sure 
lies in his pangs,' said Meave ; * my messengers have 
been to him, and nought there is which we need fear 
from Ulster. But, Feidelm, tell us the truth of the 
matter: O woman-prophet Feidelm, how seest thou 
our host?' *I see all red on them, I see crimson.' 
'But Cuscraidh Menn Macha, Conachar's son, is in 
Iniscuscraidh in his pains ; my messengers have been 
to him, and nought there is which we need dread from 
Ulster. But, Feidelm, tell us the truth of it : O Feidelm, 
O prophetess, how seest thou our host?** *I see red 
on them, I see crimson.' * But at Rathairthir, Eoghan 
mac Durthacht is in his pains: my messengers have been 
to him; nought is there which we need fear from Ulster. 
But, Feidelm, tell us true : Feidelm, thou woman-seer, 
how seest thou our host?' *I see all red on them, I 
see all crimson.' * Why, Celtchar mac Uitechar within 
his fort lies in his pangs : my messengers have been to 
him ; nought is there which we need to fear from Ulster. 
But, O Feidelm, tell us true ; woman-seer Feidelm, how 
seest thou our host?' * I see red on them, I see crim- 
son.' *The manner in which thou deducest all this 
[implied evil prognostication of thine] I approve not,' 
said Meave. * For when the men of Erin shall have 
congregated to one place, among them doubtless will 
be quarrels and affrays and broils and onslaughts : as 
regards either taking the lead or bringing up the rear, 
concerning [precedence at] ford or river, concerning 
priority in killing a swine, a cow, a stag, or other game. 
But, Feidelm, tell me true : O prophetess Feidelm, how 



PROLOGUE 123 

seest thou our host?' * I see red on them, I see crimson. 
I see a small man who shall demonstrate weapon-feats/ 
. . . and here now she began to foretell and to foreshow 
Cuchullin to the men of Erin, and she made a lay : 

* A small man I see, one who shall demonstrate 
weapon-feats, but at the price of many wounds 
in his smooth skin ; the " hero's light " is on his 
brow, and victory's arena his forehead is. The 
seven gems of an heroic champion are in the 
midst of both his eyes ; his understanding [wisdom] 
is plain to perceive, and a red mantle, clasped, 
wraps him round. A face he has that is the 
noblest, best, and towards a woman-bevy great 
modesty he does observe ; a stripling young and 
of complexion beautiful, but to the battle he 
shows a dragon's form. Like to Cuchullin of 
Muirthemne his semblance and his valour are ; 
who this Cu [hound] of Culann's from 
Muirthemne may be, I indeed know not, but this much 
full well I know : that by him the present host 
will all be red. In either one of both his hands, 
four small swords belonging to superlative sleight-feats 
he holds ; he will attain to ply them on the host, an 
extraordinary act which drives men to eschew him. 
When, over and above his sword and spear, his 
gae-bulga as well he brings into play — he, 
the man who clad in scarlet mantle acts the 
sentinel — on all spaces he puts down his foot. 
His two spears point over the chariot's left ; the 
frenzied one lets himself go : as to the form which 
to me hitherto has been revealed as worn by him, 
tome 'tis certain that his fashion he will change.^ 
For the battle now he sets forth, who unless he be 
provided against will prove to be a bane ; for 
the combat 'tis he comes towards you, even Sualtach's 
son Cuchullin. Your hosts now safe he will 



1 See T^in b6 Cuailgne (sec. 68). 



124 THE TAIN b6 CUAILGNE 

hew down, and make your slain to thickly lie : 
by him ye shall lose all your heads — she-prophet 
Feidelm conceals it not. From skins of heroes blood 
will pour, the memory of which shall be lasting, 
long ; there shall be mangled bodies, women shall 
lamentation make, all by the " Hound of the Forge,'' 
whom now I see.' 

Thus far then the prediction and prognostication 
and the head and front of the story ; with the occasion 
of its being found and made, and with the bolster- 
conversation which Ailell and Meave held in Cruachan. 



THE tAin b6 cuailgne 

The Tdin is distributed as follows : 

1 — (LL. 53 13.), Origin of the expedition for the 
Brown Bull. 

2 — (LL 65 a,). Muster of the men of Connacht to 
Cruachan. 

3 — (LL. 56 /9.)* Localities which they of the four 
other provinces (Connacht, Munster, Leinster, Meath) 
pass on their march into Ulster. 

4 — (LL. 56 /8.). The first day's march ends at Cuil 
stlinne, where they camp. The order of their tents 
is given : Ailell's first ; to his right, Fergus mac R6ich, 
then Cormac conloingeas} then others in succession. 
To Aillel's left were Meave, Finnabair ('bright-beam,' 
daughter of Meave and Ailell), wife of Ailell finn^ 
Flidais of the beautiful hair,* etc Meave brought up 
the rear in order to observe the temper of the troops. 
When the camp was pitched she made a final tour of 
inspection. This done, she came in and sat at Ailell's 
right hand. He questions her as to the spirit of the 
various contingents. She says that in comparison with 
the Gailiana' the others are but a poor set: when these 

* King Conachar's eldest son, who had entered the service of Meave, 
along with Fergus and a large number of troops. 

' She was carried off, and her husband killed, by Fergus mac R6ich. 
Her story is told in the Tiiin b6 Flidais. 

' ue, the men of Leinster. For an account of the origin and history 
of this brave clan, see 0*Curry, Man, Cusi» voL ii. pp. 257-261, and 

126 



126 THE CUCHULLIN SAGA 

were but just halted to camp, the Gailiana had finished 
off their bothies and tabernacles ; when others had 
done making their shelters, the Gailiana had made an 
end of cooking ; when others had their food ready, the 
Gailiana had eaten theirs ; finally, by the time others 
left off eating, the Gailiana were in bed and sleeping. 
Ailell says that this is all the better, since they are 
fighting on their side. But Meave protests that she 
would like to have them killed and slaughtered and 
exterminated, as she considers that they are a danger 
in the host. Ailell and Fergus dissent, and it is finally 
decided that they are to be permitted to remain with 
the army, but are to be dispersed among the men of 
Ireland, so that not more than five shall be together 
at any one place. 

6— (LL. 57/8.). Again they march. Such, however, 
is the number and great variety of their tribes and 
kindreds, that the chief commanders are much em- 
barrassed to keep the peace among them. As an 
expedient they cause each captain with his division, 
great or small, to take a separate route. They debate 
as to who shall precede them as guide and scout 
Unanimous choice falls on Fergus mac R6ich, con- 
cerning whom we are told that for seven years, until 
Conachar usurped the kingdom, he had reigned in 
Ulster; and that, altogether, for seventeen years he 
had been an exile ^ from that province. Such was the 
ground of their choice and, accordingly, Fergus took 
the lead ; but an overwhelming affection for Ulster 

Intro., xxvii. ; Book of /^i^Afs, ed. O'Donovan, p. 194, 195, and note ; 
Rhys*s Hibberi Lectures^ p. 598. 

^ For the causes of this, see ' How Conachar gained the Kingdom ' and 
* Death of the Sons of Usnach,' supra pp. 10, 11, 49. 



THE tAIN b6 CUAILGNE 127 

takes hold on him : he misleads the host to north 
and south, while he, in the meantime, despatches 
warning and information to Ulster. Meave sees 
through it all, and in ironical fashion lets him know 
it. Their trial of wit is embodied in six quatrains, 
which she begins thus : 

'What, O Fergus, shall we say to this?' 

(6) We are left to infer that, although the army had 
had a good walk, yet they were not a whit the nearer 
to Ulster, for they encamped at C^iil silinne again. 
Here Fergus bethinks him of Cuchullin and his 
qualities ; he exhorts the men of Erin to keep a 
bright look-out, because this very night the hero is 
to fall on them. He liberates his mind in nine quat- 
rains of prognostication, beginning : 

' Apprehension and wisdom are what now ye need.' 

7 — (LL. 58 a.). On the morrow the four provinces 
i advanced to Monecoltan [three places further on in the 
name-list], and there they were met by eight-score 
deer in a single herd. The host surrounds and kills 
them — not one escapes alive. But it was the Gailiana, 
all scattered as they were, who, with the exception of 
five stags, slew all those deer ; which five represented 
the men of Erin's share of them. On the same day it 
was that Cuchullin, and Sualtach^ his father, came to a 
certain pillar-stone in Ardcullin, and there let their 
horses graze : to the north of the pillar-stone, Sualtach's 
horses cropped the grass to the earth ; to the south, 
Cuchullin's cropped it down to the naked flags. He 

^ Called also Sualtam or Subaltam. We know little of Cuchullin's 
mortal father except from the Tdin. Comp. sec. 93 and note. 



128 THE CUCHULLIN SAGA 

spoke to his father, saying : ' To-night I have a shrewd 
suspicion of a host ; thou, therefore, to Ulster take a 
warning that they be not in the great open plains, but 
betake them to the woods and glens of the province, 
if so they may evade the men of Ireland.* Sualtach 
asks : ' And thou, beloved nursling, what wilt thou do ? ' 
Cuchullin answers that southwards to Tara he needs 
must depart, to a handmaid belonging to Feidelm j 
n6chruthach\i.e. *of the ever-beautiful form'], daughter 
of Conachar mac Nessa and wife to Laegaire biiadach^ 
and there pass the night in order to redeem his plighted 
troth. Sualtach objecting that this is a pitiful errand 
on which to go, at the price of abandoning Ulster 
to be trampled underfoot of enemies and outlanders, 
Cuchullin persists that go he must : * otherwise,' says 
he, ' men's compacts will be falsified and women's words 
be verified \i,e. this will be erected into a precedent for 
holding that a priori a man's promise will be broken, 
but that a woman's will be kept]. 

(8) Sualtach departs to warn Ulster. Cuchullin 
enters the forest, and there, he standing on one leg and 
using but one hand and an eye, cuts a prime oak sapling. 
This he twists into a ring or collar, and on one end of 
the sapling inscribes his name in Oghamic characters. 
Then he passes the collar over the narrower top of the 
pillar-stone, forces it downwards, and on to the thick 
of it ; which done, he in his turn goes off to keep his 
* lady-appointment' 

(9) To return to the men of Erin : they made their 
way eventually to the pillar-stone in Ardcullin, and 
thence surveyed the, to them, trackless province of 
Ulster as it lay before them. . . . The nobles of the 
host came to the pillar-stone, and fell to observing the 



THE tAIN b6 CUAILGNE 129 

manner of the grazing which the horses had carried on 
round about it They observed the barbaric collar 
also which had been left upon it Ailell takes it in his 
hand and puts it into that of Fergus, who reads the 
Ogham and to the men of Erin expounds its purport 
Then he delivers a lay : 

' Here is a collar, what shall it express to us ?' 

10 — (LL. 68/9). Fergus interprets the Ogham left by 
Cuchullin, as follows : that, until in the same posture, 
and by the same process,^ some one of them should cut 
and lay up a similar collar, in that spot they must remain 
encamped, and to this are bound in honour — that (we 
repeat), should they be guilty of such a breach, then 
nor house nor fort nor subterranean refuge would save 
them from Cuchullin's deadly vengeancle before the 
morrow's sunrise. Meave says : * Surely what we desire 
is not that in this province which but now we enter, 
any should draw first blood on us, but on the contrary 
that we should draw it on some other.' ' By no means,' 
said Ailell, * will we do violence to this collar, nor yet 
to the hero who twisted it ; rather will we resort to 
yonder forest, and in it let us secure ourselves and 
encamp.' The host advances ; with their swords a way 
for the chariots is hewn down through the wood, 
whence even now the place is known as sleacht na 
gearbaty or the 'chariots' hewn way': it is where the 
lesser Partry is, before royal Kells, from Ciiil silinne 
south-west That night there was an extrordinary 

^ It would seem that some cypher was used, as a long message was 
sometimes conveyed hy a single rod. Fergus alone could interpret this 
one. See O'Curry's Appendix in MS., iffa/., pp. 463-472, and compare 
Grimm's Teut* Myth,^ cd. Stallybrass, vol. iii. p. 1335. 

I 



X30 THE CUCHULLIN SAGA 

storm of snow : ^ it reached to chariots' axles and to 
men's shoulders, and all Ireland's provinces were 
reduced to one blank level. That night they pitched 
no tent, made no bothie^ prepared not meat nor drink ; 
none knew whether friend or foe was alongside of him. 
Certain it is, that never in night encampment had the 
men of Erin suffered more distress. On the morrow, 
with the rising of the brilliant sun as he flashed over 
the snow, out of that district they march into another. 

11 — (LL. 59). Cuchullin on the other hand by no 
means rose early ; he had had supper overnight, and 
now, morning refection, bath and ablution. He bids 
his charioteer make ready his chariot, and put-to his 
horses. Laegh mac Riangabra, the charioteer, obeys. 
Cuchullin mounts and, after a while, they strike the 
army's trail. They find that it leads away out of the 
district \ix, that to which, in honour, they should have 
confined themselves until fulfilment of the Oghamic 
conditions.] Cuchullin says : ' I have not much luck 
out of my woman-appointment that I kept last night. 
For the least that is expected of one that wards the 
marches is that he should raise the cry, or give some 
warning, and be able to say who it is that comes the 
way ; of all which we have not furnished a single item, 
for without notice or alarm the men of Erin past our 
guard are slipped into Ulster.' Laegh made answer : 
' I told thee, Cuchullin, that if last night thou didst 
keep thy woman-tryst, some such annoyance would 
befall thee.' * Good now, Laegh,* said Cuchullin, 'drive 
away upon their trail, and estimate them, and ascertain 
for us in what numbers the men of Erin arc entered 

* Heavy snow-storms appear to have been common in Ireland in 
ancient times, See sec, 44 and Mescad Uiad, p. 17. 



THE TAIN b6 CUAILGNE 131 

into Ulster's borders past us.' Laegh did so ; he took 
the trail in front [i.e. facing against it], on either side, 
and from the rear [i.e, facing with it]. * The numeration 
is confused with thee/ said Cuchullin, ' and I will try 
my hand at counting them.' This was carried out, 
and said Laegh : * 'Tis confused with thyself, CuchuUin.' 
* Not at all,' he answered ; * but they are eighteen 
triucka cits that are past us, the eighteenth being 
broken up and distributed among the rest, so that of 
them no accurate count can be made.' Now this was 
one of the three best estimates that ever was made in 
Ireland ; the other two being that made by Lugh 
Idmfada of the Fomorians, and Ainge*s at Bruidhen 
dd Derga, For Cuchullin was endowed with manjT 
perfections, such as centred not in any other one man 
of his time : perfection of form, of swimming, of horse- 
manship, of chess-playing, of backgammon -play ; pre- 
excellence in battle and in single combat ; perfection 
of look-out, of eloquence, of counsel, of action, of 
inroad into strange borders. 

12. Cuchullin now bids Laegh follow the trail, for 
he declares that unless that night he kills some one, 
whether friend or foe, he will not survive. They reach 
a place now called Athgowla, northwards from Knowth. 
Cuchullin enters a wood, and there cuts a forked pole 
of four prongs, using but one sweep [of his sword] in 
the operation, i.e. to lop it both top and bottom. He 
cleans it of all excrescences, on its side he cuts his 
name in Ogham ; then out of the chariot's after-part 
and from the finger-tips of one hand, he hurls it so 
as to make it penetrate the ground up to two-thirds of 
its length, thus leaving one-third sticking up per- 
pendicular. 



132 THE CUCHULLIN SAGA 

13, Here he encounters the two youths that always 
kept a look-out in front of Meave's host. He strikes 
off their heads and those of their charioteers, and 
turns the horses' heads back towards the army ; while 
the dripping heads he impales on the prongs of the 
upright pole. Now the manner of Meave's travelling 
was in a chariot alone, attended by a body-guard.^ 
She sees the chariots, with the headless carcases 
returning, and an inquiry is held to determine the 
cause of the youths' deaths. They lay their heads 
together, and conclude that an host, some powerful 
army, Ulster, in fact, must be in the neighbourhood, 
and awaiting them at the ford which anon they 
must cross on their march. They, therefore, send 
out Cormac conloingeas to discover who is at the 
ford. [The story proceeds.] With a company of 
thirty hundred, therefore, Cormac reached the ford ; 
but not a thing he saw there except a pole that stood 
in the middle of it, and upon each one of its four prongs 
bore a head, the blood of the same running down the 
pole ; also the track of two horses and a single chariot, 
leading due east out of the ford. Then came the head 
men in general of the host and examined the pole, and 
the evidences of Cuchullin's deadly work surprised them 
much. They name the place Ath-gabhla [Athgowla : 
* ford of the forked pole *]. 

14 — (LL. 60). Ailell expressing great wonder at the 
celerity and ease with which the four who were their 
advanced guard had been exterminated, Fergus tells 
him that more fitly might he expend his admiration on 
the feat performed by him who with the one stroke, 

^ Comp. the ' Colloquy/ 0*Grady*s Silva Gadelica^ vol. ii. pp. 201-203, 
where Meave's mode of travelling is described. 



THE tAIN b6 CUAILGNE 133 

had cut that pole top and bottom [that is to say, that 
with one circular sweep of his sword he had lopped its 
branches so as to leave four prongs, and felled itself], 
then with a cast from one hand's finger-tips caused it 
to fall in the middle of the ford, and without previous 
clearing or excavation there to penetrate the river's 
bottom till but one-third of the pole remained un- 
covered ; in which process it had pierced through the 
stones and flags of the bed. 'Moreover,' he continued, 
' to proceed beyond this point is ges to you, until in 
your host shall be found one to pluck out the pole with 
finger-tips of one hand, even as Cuchullin drove it in.' 
Meave tells Fergus that he belongs to her host, and 
bids him draw the pole. He calls for a chariot, which 
he mounts and thence assays to get up that which 
Cuchullin had put down. So hard he tugs and strains 
that he makes little bits and splinters of the chariot ; 
so also he serves seventeen chariots of Connacht in 
succession, but succeeds not in even loosening the pole. 
Meave said : ' Give over, Fergus, and break not any 
more of my people's chariots. Hadst thou not been 
with us on this hosting, by this time verily we had 
been up with the Ultonians, and possessed of captives 
and of cowherds in abundance. Right well know I 
why thou hast done all this: it was to hinder and 
delay the host until such time as Ulster should have 
got over their birth-pangs, and should give us battle in 
defence of their bull and of their droves.* Then Fergus 
calls for his own chariot ; he stands in it and, with all 
the superhuman effort he puts forth, yet never a wheel 
nor shaft nor board nor frame-piece of it he either 
starts or strains, as with the others he had done ; until 
at last with one hand's finger-tips he brings away the 



\ 



134 THE CUCHULLIN SAGA 

pole. He hands it to Ailell, who scrutinises it and 
confesses that he feels a wholesome respect for him 
who could so have planted it there, and Fergus intones 
a panegyric on CuchuUin : 

Here is the well-trimmed pole. . . . 

15 — (LL. 61 a). Fergus now suggests that the host 
should camp and pitch their tents, refreshing themselves 
with food and minstrelsy. This is done. A conversa- 
tion ensues between Ailell and Fergus as to who it 
was that had slain the two youths and their charioteers. 
Ailell suggests the names of several of the most famous 
Ulster warriors in succession, but Fergus replies that 
none of these could have come unattended by their 
troops, or have departed without having fallen upon 
and routed the men of Erin. *Then,* asked Ailell, 
'whom takest thou to have been there?' Fergus 
answered, ' That I know not, unless, indeed, it may have 
been the little immature young lad, my foster-son and 
Conachar's — Cuchullin, son of Sualtach.' Said Ailell, 
'Already formerly at Cruachan we have heard you 
mention that little boy ; and what may be his age just 
now?* 'His age is of little importance,* said Fergus, 
* for his exploits when he was much younger than now 
he is, already were those of a man.* Meave here 
inquiring whether in Ulster there be a champion more 
hard to deal with than is this youth — one of his age 
namely — Fergus assures her that not one there is 
who could come up to a third, nor to a fourth part of 
Cuchullin's exploits and accomplishments, a list of 
which latter he recites. He rebukes Meave for be- 
littling the prowess of Cuchullin on account of his 
youth, and a long digression ensues, entitled : 



THE TAIN b6 CUAILGNE 135 

CUCHULLIN'S BOY-DEEDS. 

16— (LL. 62 a). * This boy/ continues Fergus, ' was 
reared in his father's and his mother's house, by the 
seaside northwards in the plain of Muirthemne, where 
some one gives him an account of the macradh^ or 
" boycorps " of Emania ;* how that Conachar divides his 
day into three parts : the first being devoted to watch 
the boy-corps at their sports, especially that of hurling ; 
the second third to playing of chess and of draughts ; 
the third, to pleasurable absorption of meat and drink 
until drowsiness sets in, which then is promoted by the 
exertions of minstrels and musicians to induce favour- 
able placidity of mind and disposition. And for all 
that we are banished from him,' said Fergus, * by my 
word I swear that neither in Ireland nor in Scotland 
is there a warrior his \t,e, Conachar's] counterpart. 
The little lad then, as aforesaid, having heard of all this, 
one day he tells his mother that he is bent on a visit 
to Emania to test the boy-corps at their own sports. 
She objects that he is premature, and ought to wait 
until some grown warrior or other, or some confidential 
of Conachar's should, to ensure his safety, bind over the 
boy-corps to keep the peace towards him. He tells his 
mother that that is too long an outlook, that he cannot 
wait, and that all she has to do is to set him a course 
for Emania, he not knowing which way it lies. " It is 
a weary way from thee," says the mother, " for between 

^ Macradh is a noun of number fonned from mac ' a boy,' to which it 
bears the same relation that ' cavahy ' does to ' horse-soldier,* 'jewelry ' 
to 'jewel,* etc. 

' Emania is the Latinised form of Emain Macha, Conachar's capital, 
and the then chief town of Ulster. 



136 THE CUCHULLIN SAGA 

thee and it lies Slievefuad." " Give me the bearings " 
he said, and she did so. Away he goes then, taking 
with him his hurly of brass, his ball of silver, his 
throwing javelin, and his toy spear ; with which equip- 
ment he falls to shortening the way for himself. He 
did it thus: with his hurly he would strike the ball 
and drive it ever so far; then he pelted the hurly 
after it, and drove it even so far again ; then he threw 
his javelin, lastly the spear. Which done, he would 
make a playful rush after them all, pick up the hurly, 
the ball, and the javelin, while or ever the spear's tip 
could touch the earth he had caught the missile by the 
other end. 

LL. 62 fi, — ' In due course Cuchullin reaches Emania, 
where he finds the boy-corps, thrice fifty in number, 
hurling on the green and practising martial exercises, 
with Conachar's son FoUamain at their head. The 
lad dived right in among them and took a hand in the 
game. He got the ball between his legs and held it 
there, not suffering it to travel whether higher up than 
his knees or lower down than his ankle-joints, and so 
making it impossible for them to get a stroke or in any 
other way to touch it. In this plight he brought it 
along and sent it home over the goal. In utter amaze- 
ment the whole corps look on ; but Folla'main mac 
Conachar cries : " Good now, boys, all together respond 
to this youngster \i,e, meet him as he deserves], and 
kill him ; because it is ges for you to have such an one 
join himself to you and interfere in your game, without 
first having had the civility to procure your guarantee 
that his life should be respected. Together then and at 
once have at him and avenge violation of your ges ; for 
we know that he is some son of an Ultonian private 



THE tAiN b6 CUAILGNE 137 

warrior, such as without such safe-conduct practise not 
to intrude into your play." The whole of them assail 
Cuchullin, and simultaneously send their hurlies at his 
head ; he however parries all the hundred-and-fifty, 
and is scathless. The same with the balls, which he 
fends off with fists, fore- arms and palms alone. Their 
thrice fifty toy spears he receives in his little shield, 
and still is unhurt In his turn now, CuchuUin goes 
into them, and lays low fifty of the best : five more of 
them,* said Fergus, 'come past the spot where myself 
and Conachar sit at chess-play, with the young lad 
close in their wake. "Hold, my little fellow," says 
Conachar, " I see this is no gentle game thou playest 
with the boy-corps." " And good cause I have too," cries 
Cuchullin : " after coming out of a far land to them, I 
have not had a guest's reception." "How now, little 
one," said the king, " knowest thou not the boy-corps* 
conditions : that a new arrival must have them bound by 
their honour to respect his life ? " "I knew it not," said 
the boy, "otherwise I had conformed, and taken measures 
beforehand.** " *Tis well,** says the king : " take ye now 
upon yourselves to let the boy go safe.** " We do,** the 
boy-corps answered. They resume play ; Cuchullin 
does as he will with them, and again lays out fifty of them 
on the ground. Their fathers deem they cannot but be 
dead. No such thing, however ; it merely was that with 
his blows and pulls and pushes and repeated charges, 
he so terrified them that they went to grass. "What on 
earth is he at with them now ? " asks Conachar. " I 
swear by my gods," said Cuchullin, " that until they in 
their turn come in under my protection and guarantee, 
I will not lighten my hand from off them.** This they 
do at once. Now,* said Fergus in conclusion, * I submit 



138 THE CUCHULLIN SAGA 

that a youngster who did all this when he was just five 
years old, needs not to excite your wonder because, 
being now turned of seventeen years, he in this Raid 
for the Kine of Cuailgne has cut a four-pronged pole 
and the rest, and though he should have killed a man, 
or two, or three men, or even [as indeed he has done] 
four.' 1 

17 — (LL. 63 a). Conachar's son Cormac conloingeas 
spoke now, saying : * In the year after that, the same 
little boy did another deed.' 'And what was that?' 
Ailell asked. ' Well,* continued Cormac, * in Ulster 
there was a good smith and artificer, by name Culann. 
He prepared a banquet for Conachar, and travelled to 
Emania to bid him to it. He begged Conachar to 
bring with him only a moderate number of prime 
warriors ; because neither land nor domain had he, but 
merely the fruit of his sledge-hammer, of his anvil and 
of his tongs. Conachar promised that he would bring 
no more than a small company. Culann returns home 
to make his last preparations ; Conachar remaining in 
Emania until the meeting broke up and the day came 
to a close. Then the king assumed his light convenient 
travelling garb, and betook him to the green in order 
to bid the boy-corps farewell before he started. There 
however he saw a curious sight. Three hundred and 
fifty youths at one end of the green, and at the other, 
a single one ; he also taking the goal against the crowd 
of them. Again, when they played the hole game and 
that it was their turn to aim at the hole, it being his to 
defend it, he used to receive all thrice fifty balls just at 
but outside the hole, so that not one went in ; when 

^ The LU. version relates some other boyish exploits. Sec Zimmer, 
Kelt, Studien^ p. 446-447. 



THE TAiN b6 CUAILGNE 139 

the defence was theirs, and his to shoot, he would 
hole the entire set without missing one. When the 
game was to tear each one another's clothes off, he 
would have the mantles off them all, while their full 
number could not attain merely to pull out his brooch. 
When it was to upset each other, he would knock over 
the hundred and fifty and they could not stretch him. 
All which when Conachar had witnessed, he said: " I con- 
gratulate the land into which the little boy is come; were 
his full-grown deeds to prove consonant to his boyish 
exploits, he would indeed be of some solid use." To 
this expression [as admitting a doubt] Fergus objected, 
saying to Conachar : " That is not justly said ; for accord- 
ing as the little boy grows, so also will his deeds 
increase with him." " Have the child called to us," said 
the king, " that he come with us to share the banquet" 
" I cannot go thither just now," said the youth. " How 
so ? " asked Conachar. " The boy-corps have not yet had 
enough of play." "It would be too long for us to wait 
until they had," said the king. " Wait not at all, but I 
e'en will go after you." " But, young one, knowest thou 
the way ? " "I will follow the trail of the company, of 
the horses, and the chariots* tracks." 

18 — (LL. 63 fi). * Thereupon Conachar starts ; eventu- 
ally he reaches Culann's house, is received in becoming 
fashion, fresh rushes are laid, etc., and they fall to the 
banquet. Anon the smith says to Conachar : " Good 
now, O king, has any promised that this night he would 
follow thee to this dwelling ?" " No, not one," answered 
Conachar (quite forgetting the wee boy) ; " but where- 
fore askest thou ? " " It is only that I have an excellent 
ban-dog, from which when his chain is taken off no 
one may dare be in the one triucha cit with him ; for 



I40 THE CUCHULLIN SAGA 

saving myself he knows not any man, and in him 
resides the strength of an hundred." Conachar said : 
" Loose him then, and let him guard this triucha cit 
about." So Culann did ; the dog made the circuit of 
his country, then took up his usual position whence to 
watch the house, and there he couched with his head 
on his paws. Surely an extraordinary cruel and fierce 
and savage dog was he. 

19. * As for the boy-corps above, until it was time to 
separate they continued in Emania ; then they dis- 
persed, each one to his parent's house, or to his nurse's, 
or to his guardian's. But the little fellow, trusting to 
the trail as aforesaid, struck out for Culann's house. 
With his club and ball he shortened the way for him- 
self as he went. So soon as ever he came to the green 
of Culann's fort, the ban-dog, becoming aware of him, 
gave tongue in such a way as to be heard throughout 
all the countryside ; nor was it to carve the boy decently 
as for a feast that he was minded, but at one gulp to 
swallow him down. The child was without all reason- 
able means of defence ; the dog's throat therefore down, 
as he charged open-jawed, with great force he threw 
his ball, which mortally punished the creature's inwards. 
Cuchullin seized him by the hind legs, and against a 
rock at hand banged him to such purpose that in 
disintegrated gobbets he strewed all the ground. The 
whole company within had heard the ban-dog's 
challenge, at sound of which Conachar said: "'Tis 
no good luck has brought us on our present trip." 
"Your meaning?" queried the others. "I mean that 
the little boy, my sister Dechtire's son Setanta mac 
Sualtach, had promised to come after me; who even now 
must be fallen by the ban-dog." To a man the heroes 



THB tAIN b6 CUAILGNR 141 

rose; and though the fort's doors were thrown open, 
out they stormed over the ramparts to go aeok him. 
Speedy as they were, yet did Fergus outstrip them ; 
he picked up the boy, hoisted him on his shoulder, and 
carried him to Conachar. Culann himself had como 
abroad, and there he saw his ban-dog lie in scraps and 
pieces ; which was a heart's vexation to him. He gooff 
back indoors and says : ** Thy father and thy mother are 
welcome both, but most unwelcome thou." ** Why, what 
hast thou against the little fellow 7 " asked Conachar. 
"Twas no good luck that pricked me on to make my 
feast for thee, O Conachar : my dog now being gone, 
henceforth my substance is but substance wanted ; 
my livelihood, a means of living set all astray. IJttIo 
boy," he continued, " that was a good member of my 
family thou tookest from me: a safeguard of raiment, 
of flocks and of herds." " Be not angered thereat," Nald 
the child; ''for in this matter myself will pronounce an 
equitable award." ** And what might that tie ? " iru{uired 
Conachar. The little boy replied; ** U in all Ireland 
there be a whelp of that dog's breed, tiy me he shall \m 
nurtured till he be fit for action as was bU ulrtt, In iim 
meantime I, O Culann, myself will do thee a ban d//g'« 
office, in guarding of thy cattle and ^uimifiiUA and 
strong place.'" ^ Well hast ttiou made iim award," «a(d 
Conachar; and Catbbad the inagkian, ^UUnitia in, 
declared that not in his own i^erv/n i^/ul4 l^ff havi; sioua 
it better, and that htn^^U/f ih tb^ U// $t$uki l/«?a# ih^ 
name « Ckul4unn "" CluUsm't iU^ut^!' /y, ^^>JMdlM^/' 
The yoongtPter b^/w^ry-er //l^e/.Ud; ""Z likif $hy '/wi* 
same better : 5>etauiU hwm; JiuaJta/ii." ^ fi^'^^f %ity ii/' 
CatlsMd refiv>fH«traUa4 ; ^^^ aJI f#^«^ $0$ <)^ w'/fi4 khf^H 
hare tibrw mwtbs f^iJi ^Aih^i r#ai«^.^ 'I ij^ */// i^^vitifA 0^4 



142 THE CUCHULLIN SAGA 

that on those terms the name would be well pleasing to 
him, and in this way it came to pass that it stuck to 
him. Now the little fellow/ continued Cormac conloin- 
geas the narrator of all this, * who when just touching 
six years of age slew the dog with which (he being at 
large) even a great company durst not at one time be 
in the one triucha cit^ it were not reasonable to be 
astonished though the same at seventeen years com- 
pleted should come into the marches, cut a four-pronged 
pole, and kill a man, or two, or three, or four, in the 
Raid for the Kine of Cuailgne.* 

20 — (LL. 64 )8). Fiacha mac Firaba, taking up the 
recital, said that in the very year following that adven- 
ture of the dog, the little boy had committed a third 
exploit. 'And what was that ? * Ailell asked. * Why, it 
was Cathbad the magician,' continued Fiacha, ' who to 
the north-east of Emania taught his pupils, there being 
with him eight from among the students of his art. 
One of whom questioning him as to what end that day 
I the more especially was favourable, Cathbad told him 
! that any stripling who on that day should for the first 
I time assume arms and armature, the name of such an 
one for ever would transcend those of all Ireland's 
youths besides. His life however must be fleeting, 
short. The boy was on Emania's south side, neverthe- 
less he heard Cathbad's speech. He put off his playing 
suit and laid aside his implements of sport; then he 
entered Conachar's sleep-house and said : "All good 
be thine, O king." Conachar answered, " Boy, what is 
thy request?" "I desire to take arms." "And who 
prompted thee to that?" " Cathbad the magician," said 
the boy. "Then thou shalt not be denied," quoth 
the king, and forthwith gave him two spears with sword 



THE TAiN b6 CUAILGNE 143 

and shield. The boy supples and brandishes the 
weapons, and in the process breaks them all to shivers 
and splinters. In short, whereas in Emania Conachar 
had seventeen complete weapon-equipments ready for 
the boy-corps' service — since whenever one of them 
took arms, Conachar it was that invested him witli the 
outfit and thus brought him luck in the using of it-=— the 
boy made fragments of them all. Which done, he says : 
" O my master, O Conachar, these arms are not good ; 
they suffice me not." Thereupon the king gave him his 
own two spears, his own sword and shield. In every 
possible way the urchin tested them ; he even bends 
them point to hilt and head to butt, yet never broke 
them : they endured him. " These arms are good," 
says he, "and worthy of me. Fair fall the land and 
region which for its king has him whose arms and 
armature are these ! " 

21. 'Just then it was that Cathbad the magician 
comes into the tent and wondering asks : ** Is the little 
boy assuming arms ? " "Ay, indeed," says the king. " It 
is not his mother's son we would care to see assume 
them on this day," said the wizard. " How now," said 
the king, "was it not thyself that prompted him?" 
"Not I, of a surety." "Brat," cried the king, "what 
meanest thou with telling me that it was so, wherein 
thou liedst to me ? " " O king, be not wroth," the boy 
pleaded ; " for he it was that prompted me when he 
instructed his other pupils. For they asking him 
what special virtue lay in this day, he told them that 
the name of whatsoever youth should therein for the 
first time take arms, would top the fame of all other 
Erin's men ; nor thereby should he suffer following 
disadvantage, save that his life must be fleeting, short." 



144 THE CUCHULLIN SAGA 

" And true it is for me," said Cathbad : " noble and 
famous indeed thou shalt be, but transitory, soon gone." 
" Little care I," said CuchuHin, " nor though I were 
but one day or one night in being, so long as after me 
the history of myself and doings may endure." Then 
said Cathbad again : ^' Well then, get into a chariot, boy, 
and proceed to test in thine own person whether mine 
utterance was truth." 

22 — (LL 65 a). * So Cuchullin mounts a chariot ; in 
divers ways he tries its strength, and reduces it to 
fragments. He mounts a second, to the same effect. 
Brief, whereas in Emania for the boy-corps' service 
Conachar had seventeen chariots, in like wise the little 
fellow smashed them all ; then he said, " These chariots 
of thine, O Conachar, are no good at all, nor worthy 
of me." "Where is lubar, son of Riangabar?" cried 
Conachar, and : " here am I," he answered. " For him 
there, tackle my own chariot and put-to both my 
horses." The driver does his will ; Cuchullin mounts, 
tests the chariot, and it endures him. " This chariot is 
good," he said, " and is my worthy match." " Good now, 
little boy," said lubar, "suffer the horses to be turned 
out to grass." " Too early for that yet, lubar ; drive 
on and round about Emania." "Yet suffer now that 
the horses go to graze." "Too early yet, lubar ; drive 
ahead, that the boy-corps give me salutation on this 
the first day of my taking arms." They came to the 
place where the boy-corps was, and the cry of them 
resounded : " These are arms that thou hast taken ! " 
" The very thing indeed," he said. They wished him 
success in spoil-winning and in first-slaying, but ex- 
pressed regret that now he was weaned away from 
them and from their sports. Cuchullin assures them 



THE tAIN b6 CUAILGNE 145 

that 'tis not so, but that 'tis something in the nature of 
a charm that has caused him to take arms on this day 
of all others. Again lubar presses to have the horses 
taken out, and again the boy refuses. He examines 
the driver : " Whither leads this great road here running 
by us?" lubar says that it runs to Ath an foraire 
"the Look-out Ford," in Slievefuad. In answer to 
further questions with which he plies the charioteer, 
CuchuUin learns that the ford has that name from the 
fact that daily there some prime warrior of the Ultonians 
keeps watch and ward to see that no extern champion 
comes to challenge them, it being his duty to do battle 
[single combat] on behalf of his whole province. 
Should men of verse be coming away from them dis- 
satisfied with their treatment, his it was, in lieu of the 
whole province, to solace them with gold and gear. 
On the other hand, where men of verse entered into his 
land, his duty it was to see that up to Conachar's bed- 
side they had safe-conduct. This sentinel warrior's 
praises then would be the theme of the first pieces, in 
divers forms of verse, which on arriving at Emania 
these men of metre straightway would rehearse. Cu- 
chuUin inquiring whether lubar knows who it is that 
on this particular day mounts guard, the servitor 
replies : " I know it well ; it is Conall mac Amargin, 
surnamed cemach 'Victorious,* Ireland's pre-eminent 
man of war." "To that ford onwards therefore, 
driver I" cried the boy. Sure enough, at the water's 
edge they light on Conall, who receives them with: 
" And are they arms that thou hast taken to-day, small 
boy?" "They are that," lubar answered for him. 
" May they bring him triumph and victory and drawing 
of first blood," said Conall. "The only thing is 

K 



146 THE CUCHULLIN SAGA 

that in my judgment thou ^ prematurely hast assumed 
them, seeing that as yet thou art not exploit-fit." For 
all answer the boy says : " And what dost thou here, 
Conall ? " " On behalf of the province I keep watch and 
ward." ** Come/* said the youngster, " for this day let me 
take the duty." " Never say it," quoth Conall, " for as 
yet thou art not up to coping with a right fighting man." 
" Then will I go down to the shallows of Loch Echtra, 
to see whether I may * redden ' [draw blood] on either 
friend or foe." "And I," said Conall, "will go to protect 
thee and to safeguard, to the end that on the marches 
thou run not into danger." "Nay," said Cuchullin, "come 
not" " I will so," Conall insisted, " for were I to admit 
thee all alone to frequent the marches, Ulster would 
avenge it on me." 

23 — (LL. 66 fi). * Conall has his chariot made ready, 
his horses put-to ; he starts on his errand of protection, 
and soon overhauls Cuchullin, who had cut the matter 
short and was gone before. They now being abreast, 
the boy deemed that, in the event of opportunity to do 
some deed of mortal daring, Conall never would suffer 
him to execute the same. From the ground therefore 
he picks up a 'handstone,' t\e. one that filled his fist, 
and takes a very careful shot at Conall's chariot-yoke. 
He breaks it in two, the vehicle comes down, and 
Conall is hurled prone, so falling that his mouth is 
brought over one shoulder. " What 's all this, urchin ? " 
" It was I : in order to see whether my shot [marksman- 
ship] was good, and whether in me there was material 
of a man at arms." " Poison take both thy shot and 
thyself as well ; and though thy head now should fall 
a prize to foe of thine, yet never a foot further will I 

^ This change of person is in the original text. 



THE tAin b6 CUAILGNE 147 

budge to keep thee I " " The very thing I crave of thee," 
said the boy; ''[which I do in this peculiar manner] 
because to you Ultonians it is ges to persist after 
violence done to you.** With that, Conall goes back to 
his post at the watch-ford. 

24. 'As for the little boy, southwards he went his 
way to the shallows of Loch Echtra, and until the day's 
end abode there. Then spoke lubar : " If to thee we 
might venture to say so much, little one, I. should be 
more than rejoiced that we made instant return to 
Emania. Because already for some time the carving 
is begun there ; and whereas there thou hast thine 
appointed place kept till thou come: between Conachar's 
knees to wit, I on the contrary have nothing for it but 
among the messengers and jesters of his house to fit in 
where I may ; for which reason I judge it now high 
time that I were back again to scramble with them." 
Cuchullin orders him to harness and put-to ; which 
being done, they drive off, and Cuchullin inquires the 
name of a mountain that he sees. He learns that it is 
Slievemourne [the Mourne range], and further asks the 
meaning of a white cairn which appears on a summit 
It is Finncharn ; the boy thinks it inviting, and orders 
the driver to take him thither. lubar expressing great 
reluctance, Cuchullin says : " Thou art a lazy loon, con- 
sidering that this is my first adventure-quest, and this thy 
first trip with me." " And if it is," says lubar, " and that 
ever I reach Emania, for ever and for ever may it be 
my last I *' " Good now, driver," says the boy when they 
are on the tulach's apex ; " in all directions teach me 
the topography of Ulster, a country in which I know 
not my way about" The servitor from that coign 
points out the tulachs and plain lands and duns of the 



148 THE CUCHULLIN SAGA 

province. "'Tis well, O driver ; and what now is yon 
well-defined glen-seamed plain before us to the south- 
ward ? " " That is Magh Breagh." " Proceed then, and 
instruct me in the fast places and forts of that plain/' 
Then lubar pointed out to him Tara and Taillte, 
Cletty and Knowth and the brugh of Angus on the 
Boyne, and the diin of Nechtan Sceine's sons. " Are 
they those sons of Nechtan of whom 'tis said, that the 
number of Ultonians now alive exceeds not the tale of 
them fallen by their hands ? " " The same," said lubar. 
"Away with us then to ddn mac Nechtan^ "Woe 
waits on such a speech ; and whosoe'er he be that goes 
there, I will not be the one." CuchuUin said : " Alive or 
dead, thither thou shalt go however." " Alive I go then, 
and dead I shall be left there." They make their way 
to the dun, and the little boy dismounts upon the 
green, a green with this peculiar feature : in its centre 
stood a pillar-stone, encircled with an iron collar, test 
of accomplishment heroic; for it bore graven writing 
to the effect that any man (if only he were one that 
carried arms) who should enter on this green, must hold 
it ges to him to depart from off it without challenging 
to single combat some one of the dwellers in the dun. 
The little boy read the Ogham, threw his arms around 
the stone to start it, and eventually pitched it, collar 
and all, into the water close at hand. " In my poor 
opinion," ventured lubar, "'tis no better so than it was 
before ; and well I know that this time at all events 
thou wilt find the object of thy search : a prompt and 
violent death." " Good, good, O driver, spread me now 
the chariot-coverings that I sleep a little while." "Alas 
that one should speak so ; for a land of foemen and 
not of friends is this." lubar obeys, and on the green 



THE tAIN b6 CUAILGNE 149 

at once the little fellow falls asleep. Just then it was 
that Foill mac Nechtan Sceine issues forth, and, at 
sight of the chariot, calls out : " Driver, untackle not 
those horses I " lubar made answer that in his hand 
still he held their reins [a sign that he was not 
about to unharness them]. " What horses are these ? " 
" Conachar's two body-pied [piebalds].*' " Even such 
at sight I took them to be," said Foill ; " and who has 
brought them into these borders ? " "A young bit of a 
little boy ; one who for luck has taken arms to-day, 
and for the purpose of showing off his form and fashion 
is come into the marches." " Never let it thrive with 
him," says Foill ; " were it a sure thing that he is 
capable of action, 'tis dead in place of alive that he 
would go north back to Emania." " Indeed he is not 
capable, nor could it rightly be imputed to him ; this is 
but the seventh year since his birth." Here the little 
one lifts his face from the ground ; not only that, but 
his whole body to his feet, blushes deep at the affront 
which he has overheard, and he says : " Ay am I, fit for 
action I " But Foill rejoined : " I rather would incline 
to hold that thou art not." " Thou shalt know what 
to hold in this matter [replied the lad], only let us 
repair to the ford ; * but first, go fetch thy weapons, in 
cowardly guise thou art come hither, for nor drivers 
nor messengers nor folk unarmed slay I." Foill rushes 
headlong for his arms, and lubar advises the boy that 
he must be careful with him. Cuchullin asks the 
reason, and is told that that is Foill mac Nechtan 

^ In Irish romance, all single combats take place close to running 
water. The gae bulga could be used with effect only by being laid along 
the surface of a stream. For the similar Scandinavian usage, see Wein- 
hold's AUnordiickes Leben^ p. 299. 



i 

ISO '' THE CUCHULLIN SAGA 

Sceine, invulnerable to either point or edge of any 
kind. ** Not to me should such a thing be spoken/' he 
replies ; " for I will take in hand my special feat : the 
tempered and refined iron ball, which shall land in his 
forehead's midst and backwards through his occiput 
shall carry out his brain, so leaving his head traversed 
by a fair conduit for the air." With that, out comes 
Foill mac Nechtan again ; the little lad grasps his ball, 
hurls it with the exact effect foretold, and he takes 
Foill's head. 

25 — (LL. 66 13). ' Out of the dun now the second son 
emerges on the green, whose name was Tuachall mac 
Nechtan, and he says : " Belike thou art inclined to boast 
of that much." Cuchullin saying that the fall of a 
single warrior is for him no matter of boast, Tuachall 
tells him that in that case he will not boast at all, 
because straightway he shall perish by his hand. 
" Then make haste for thy weapons," quoth the boy ; 
" for in cowardly guise thou comest hither." Away goes 
Tuachall; lubar repeats his admonition. "Who is 
that ? " asks the boy. He is told not only that he is 
a son of Nechtan's, but also that he must be slain at 
the first stroke or shot or other attempt of whatsoever 
nature, or not at all ; and this because of the extra- 
ordinary activity and skill which in front of weapon's 
points he displayed to avoid them. Again Cuchullin 
objects that such language ought not to be addressed 
to him. " I will," says he, " take in my hand Conachar's 
great spear, the Venomous ; it shall pierce the shield 
over his breast and, after holing the heart within him, 
shall break three ribs in his side that is the farther 
from me." This also the boy .performed, and took the 
patient's head or ever his body touched the ground. 



THE TAIN b6 CUAILGNE 151 

26 — (LL. 67 a). ' Now comes out the youngest of the 
sons, Fainnle mac Nechtan, and says : " But simpletons 
were they with whom thou hast had to do." Cuchullin 
asks him what he means, and Fainnle invites him to 
come away down and out upon the water where his 
foot will not touch bottom, himself on the instant 
darting to the ford. Still lubar warns the boy to be 
upon his guard. " How is that then? *' says Cuchullin. 
'' Because that is Fainnle mac Nechtan ; and the reason 
why he bears the name is that, as it were a fdinnle 
* swallow * or a weasel, even so for swiftness he travels 
on the water's surface, nor can the whole world's 
swimmers attempt to cope with him." "Not to me 
ought such a thing to be said," the boy objects again ; 
" for thou knowest the river which we have in Emania, 
the Callan : well, when the boy-corps break off from 
their sports and plunge into the same to swim, on 
either shoulder I take a lad of them, on either palm 
another, nor in the transit across that water ever wet 
so much as my ankles." Then he and Fainnle enter 
the ford and there wrestle. The youngster clasps his 
arms around him and gets him just flush with the 
water; then he deals him a stroke of Conachar's 
sword and takes his head, letting the body go with 
the current To finish up, Cuchullin and his man enter 
the dun and harry it ; they Are it and leave it burning 
brightly, then turn about to retrace their steps through 
Slievefuad, not forgetting to carry with them the heads 
of Nechtan Sceine's sons. 

27. * Soon they saw in front of them a herd of deer, 
and the boy sought to know what were those numer- 
ous and restless cattle. lubar explains that they 
are not cattle, but a herd of wild deer that keep in 



IS2 THE CUCHULLIN SAGA 

the dark recesses of SHcvefuad. He being urged to 
goad the horses in their direction, does so ; but the 
king's fat horses cannot attain to join company 
with the hard-conditioned deer. CuchuUin dismounts 
therefore and, by sheer running and mere speed, in 
•the moor captures two stags of the grandest bulk, 
I which with thongs and other gear of the chariot 
he makes fast to it. Still they hold a course for 
Emania, and by-and-bye, when nearing it, perceive a 
certain flock of whitest swans. The boy asks are they 
pet birds or wild, and learns that they are wild swans 
which used to congregate from rocks and islands of 
the sea and, for feeding's sake, infest that country. 
Cuchullin questions still, and fain would know which 
were the rarer thing : to bring some of them back alive 
to Emania, or to bring them dead. lubar hesitates not 
to say that to bring them living were the more credit- 
able by far : " for," said he, ** you may find plenty to 
bring them in dead ; perhaps not one to bring them 
living." Into his sling Cuchullin lays a little stone, 
and with it at a cast fetches eight swans of the 
number. Again he loads, this time with a larger stone, 
and now brings down sixteen. " Driver, bring along 
the birds," he says. But lubar hesitates. " I hardly 
can do that." "And why not ? " says the boy. "Because 
if I quit my present posture, the horses' speed and 
action being what they are the chariot's iron wheels 
will cut me into pieces ; or else the stags' antlers will 
'hole' and otherwise wound me." "No true warrior 
art thou, lubar ; but come, the horses I will overlook 
with such a look that they shall not break their regula- 
tion pace; as for the gaze which I will bend on the 
stags, they shall stoop their heads for awe." At this. 



THE tAiN b6 CUAILGNE IS3 

lubar ventures down and retrieves the swans, which 
with more of the thongs and ropes he secures to the 
chariot. In this form they cover the rest of the way 
to Emania. 

28— (LL. 67/8). 'Levarcham, daughter of Aedh 
[and messenger to the king], perceives them now and 
cries: "A solitary chariot-fighter draws near to thee, 
O Conachar, and terribly he comes ! The chariot is 
graced with bleeding heads of his enemies ; beautiful / 
white birds he has which in the chariot bear him. 
company, and wild unbroken stags bound and tethered ' 
to the same. Verily, unless measures be taken to 
receive him prudently, the best of the Ultonians 
must fall by his acts." " I know that chariot-fighter," 
Conachar said : " even the little boy, my sister's son, 
who this very day went to the marches. Surely he 
will have ' reddened his hand ' ; and should his fury 
not be timely met, all Emania's young men will perish 
by him." At last they hit upon a method to abate his 
manly rage [the result of having shed blood], and it 
was this: Emania's women all (sixscore and ten in 
number) reduce themselves critically to nature's garb, 
and without subterfuge of any kind troop out to meet 
him [their manoeuvre being based on Cuchullin's well- r 
known modesty which, like all his_qualities, was exces- ' 
sive]. The little fellow leans his head upon the rail 
and shuts them from his sight. Now is the desired 
moment: at unawares he is pinned, and soused into 
a vat of cold water ready for the purpose.* In this 

^ A similar account of the means employed to calm Cuchullin's fury is 
given in the 'Sickbed of Cuchullin,' after his fights in company with 
Labraid 'of the quick hand at sword.' This is the first example in the 
Ts(in of the hero's ' paroxysm/ or ' demoniac rage,' which gained him the 
name of the Riastartha, or ' Distorted One.' 



154 THE CUCHULLIN SAGA 

; first vessel, the heat generated by his immersion 
was such that both staves and hoops flew asunder 
instantly. In a second, the water escaped [by boiling 
over] ; in yet a third, the water still was hotter than 
one might bear. By this time, however, the little 
man's fury had died down in him ; from crown to 
sole he blushed a beautiful pinky red all over, and they 
clad him in his festive clothes. Thus his natural 
form and feature were restored to him. 

29 — (LL. 68 a). ' A beautiful boy indeed was that : 
seven toes to each foot he had, and to either hand as 
many fingers ; his eyes were bright with seven pupils 
apiece, each one of which glittered with seven gem- 
like sparkles. On either cheek he had four moles : a 
blue, a crimson, a green one and a yellow. Between 
one ear and the other he had fifty clear-yellow long 
tresses that were as the yellow wax of bees, or like 
unto a brooch of the white gold as it glints to the sun 
I unobscured. He wore a green mantle silver-clasped 
^pon his breast, a gold-thread shirt. The small boy 
took his place between Conachar's knees, and the king 
\ began to stroke his mane. Now the stripling who, by 
I the time that seven years were completed from his 
/ birth, had done such deeds : had destroyed the 
champions by whom two-thirds of the Ultonians fell 
unavenged — I hold,' said Fiacha mac Firaba, the 
narrator, * that there is scant room for wonder though 
at seventeen years completed he comes to the marches, 
cuts a pole of four prongs, and kills a man, ay, two, 
or three, or four, all in the Raid for the Kine of 
Cuailgne.' 

This then, and thus far, is somewhat of Cuchullin's 
boy-feats in the Raid, and the story's first inception, 



THE tAIN b6 CUAILGNE iss 

and the account of the host's moving out from Cruachan, 
with the route they took. 

Progress of the Tdin 

30 — (LL. 68 a). The story now resumes the original 
thread : on the morrow Ireland's four great provinces 
marched past Corann ^ eastwards, across the mountain 
namely. CuchuUin, coming against them as it were, he 
falls in with a charioteer belonging to Meave's son and 
Ailcll's, Orlam by name. At Tamlacht-Orlam it was, 
and the driver was busied with cutting chariot-poles 
from a holly-tree in the wood. To his own charioteer 
Cuchullin said : ' Laegh, it is a bold stroke for the 
Ultonians if it be they that in this fashion, with the 
men of Erin coming on them, cut down the forest. 
Thou therefore, O Laegh, tarry here till I discover who 
it is that fells the wood.' He proceeds and soon finds 
the Connacht driver, whom he greets with : * And what, 
my lad, dost thou there ? * He made answer, * I cut 
holly-poles, because that in chasing of that famous 
deer, Cuchullin, we have damaged our chariots sorely ; 
and therefore, warrior, for thine honour's sake lend mc 
a hand that the same noble Cuchullin pounce not on 
me here.' * Thy choice, lad : whether shall I get thee 
the holly-poles, or else trim them for thee ? ' * Do the 
trimming,' said the driver. Cuchullin goes to work, , 
and by the simple process of drawing the poles through ij 
the interstices both of his toes and of his fingers, finishes • 
them to perfect straightness and smoothness, all bark \ 
and protuberances cleaned away. He drew them 

^ LU. says Magh Mucceda ; but both the names must be incorrect, as 
these places lie in Connacht, while the troops were in eastern Ulster or 
Meath. See map. 



iS6 THE CUCHULLIN SAGA 

' against their crookedness and their excrescences/ i>. 
by the tops and cleaned them downwards, instead of 
by the butts and upwards. So polished were they, 
that, when he dismissed them, a fly could not have 
kept a footing on them. The charioteer intently looks 
at him and says : ' I incline to think that this work to 
which I set thee is not thy proper work. Who art thou 
then at all ? ' 'I am that notable Cuchullin of whom 
but now thou spakest' Thereat the driver exclaims 
that surely he is but a dead man ; Cuchullin however 

f comforts him with the assurance that he slays not 
drivers, nor messengers, nor the unweaponed, and in- 
quires of him where his lord and master is. Cuchullin 
hearing that Orlam is not far off, he orders the charioteer 
back to him with a warning that Ulster's representative 
is at hand : * because,' said he, ' if we meet, surely thy 
lord shall fall.' The man of Connacht sought his master, 
but, for all his haste, Cuchullin won the race : he the 
first reaches Orlam, he strikes off his head, holds it 
aloft, shows it to and shakes it at the men of Erin. 

[A number of short episodes occur here, which can be but 
briefly dealt with.] 

31— (LL 68 fi). Cuchullin kills the three sons of 
Garach and their charioteers. 

32. Lethan and his charioteer are killed by him at 
his ford on the Nith, in Conaille Muirthemne, 

33. Then it was that to the men of Erin * Cainbile's 
Harps' came from Assaroe and made minstrelsy for 
them. But the host, as deeming that it was to spy 
on them in Ulster's interest they were there, drove 
them off*; and even pursued them so hotly that, at 
the great stone of Lecmore, in the form of wild deer 
they vanished from them. For though men called 



THE tAIN b6 CUAILGNK tST 

tbem * the Harps of Cainbile,* they in good sooth were 
human, and magicians possessed of great science and 
much occult power.^ 

SC Cuchullin with two casts of a sling-stone kills ^ 
the squirrel and the pet bird that are seated on Meave's 
two shoulders. 

36. The men of Erin harry Magh Breagh and Magh 
Muirthemne. Fergus warns them that Cuchullin is in 
their neighbourhood ; he pronounces his panegyric 

The Brawn Bull and the Morrigu 

36— (LL. 69 a). On the same day it was that the 
Brown Bull of Cuailgne, accompanied by fifty Ultonian 
heifers, entered into the land of Mairgen and there 
bellowed. On the same day it was that the Morrigu had 
come, and on a pillar-stone in Tara of Cuailgne sat 
sounding a warning to the Brown Bull in advance of 
the men of Erin. She discoursed to him, and what she 
said was this : ' Good now, unhappy one, O Brown Bull 
of Cuailgne I be cautious, and watch well and be on 
thy keeping ; for otherwise the men of Erin will come 
to thee, and to their camp will carry thee away.' In 
this fashion timely she alarmed him ; whose words 
when the Brown Bull of Cuailgne heard, he took fifty 
of his heifers and went his ways to Glenn samaisce 
' the Heifer's Glen,' in SlieveguUion. 

37. The Brown Bull's virtues are set forth. f 

38. Locha, a hand-maiden of Queen Meavc, goes to 
the river for water, decorated with Mcave's golden 

^ This last sentence is a note by the redactor. A less sceptical and 
more imaginative explanation is given of some similar harps in TAin 
b6 Fraich (Proc K.I.A., Irish MS. Series, vol. i. part i. p. 141 and note, 
* Chants of Uaithne '). 



iS8 THE CUCHULLIN SAGA 

coronet (or mind)} Cuchullin, mistaking her for 
Meave, kills her with a stone, breaking the diadem in 
pieces. 

39 — (LL. 69 P). Meave's host endeavours to ford 
Gluts Chruinn 'Crunn's Stream'; but on account of the 
swollen condition of the waters, the chariots that essay 
to do so are swept down to the sea. Uala, who ven- 
tures in, is drowned. 

40. CuchuIIin kills Raen and Rae, the two historians 
of the Raid, and a hundred common men. Meave 
tries to persuade one of her champions to meet him, 
but all refuse. She requires to have the mountain 
cleared before her, and a way cut into the solid, there 
to endure as an abiding shame to Ulster. It is called 
bemas Ulad * the Gap of Ulster,* They pitch at bilat 
Aileoin 'the Crossways of Ailen,' henceforth called 
glenn tdil * glen of shedding,' from the copious flow of 
milk that night yielded by the flocks' and herds; they 
cross the river Seochair and camp at druim in ' Ridge 
of Birds.' CuchuIIin takes up a position close at hand, 
and brandishes and shakes his weapons at them ; the 

' eflect being so torrific that, with the fear and horror 
which he inspires, one hundred warriors of the host die 
presently. 

41. Meave sends Fiacha mac Firaba of Ulster to 
propose terms to CuchuIIin, bidding him to leave the 
service of Conachar, whom she insultingly calls 'a 
petty captain,' and enter that of Ailell and herself. 

42 — (LL. 70 a). CuchuIIin promptly rejects the 

^ The mind was a crown or diadem of gold. It covered or surrounded 
the whole head and is to be distinguished from the land or crescent of 
gold. It would appear to have been worn by both men and women, 
(comp. sec. 7$) and see O'Curry, Man, Cust vol. iii. pp. 193-198. 



THE tAiN b6 CUAILGNE 159 

terms, but promises to confer in person with Meave 
and Fergus. On the morrow the hero seeks the glen ; 
thither the queen and Ailell come to meet him, but 
they keep the glen between themselves and him. 

Meavis Conference with CuchUlin 

43. The queen scanned him narrowly, and was dis* 
appointed to find in him (as she reckoned it) but the 
bulk of a small boy.^ ' Is that, O Fergus, the famous 
Cuchullin of whom thou speakest?' ' The same,' quoth 
he. Then Meave intoned a lay, Fergus answering 
alternately : — 

* If yonder be the comely Ci!i . . .' 

After some discussion Cuchullin refuses Meave's 
terms, and they depart on either side in high dudgeon. 

MacRotVs Embassage ' 

44. During the three days and three nights that the 
host are encamped at druint in they never venture to 
eat nor sleep, for each night Cuchullin harasses them 
and kills a hundred men. MacRoth the messenger-in- 
chief is sent to propose terms to Cuchullin. Fergus 
says that probably he would be found between Ochain 
and the sea, where after the sleeplessness of a whole 
night spent in single-handed slaughter of Ireland's four 
great provinces he, by admitting sun and wind to play 
upon his body, would be refreshing himself In the 
night next ensuing there was a great fall of snow, 

^ Cuchullin was but seventeen yean of age at the time of the Tdin and 
had no beard (see sec. 58). 

* Extracts from this passage describing the embassage of MacRoth the 
herald are given by O'Curry, Man. Cust,, vol. ii. Lect xiv. pp. 297-298. 



\'- 



i6o THE CUCHULLIN SAGA 

whereby the five provinces at large were reduced to 
one dead level. Cuchullin discarded the twenty-seven 
* cunningly prepared under-shirts which with cords and 
' ropes were secured about him ; and this he did 
to escape the difficulty that would arise in throwing 
them off, should his paroxysm come to boiling-point 
and he in them still. Anon, and for thirty feet all 
round his body, the snow melted with the intense heat 
generated in the hero's system ; his charioteer, indeed, 
durst not come nigh him. From a safe distance he 
informs Cuchullin of MacRoth's approach and describes 
him. The herald announces his terms, which are in- 
stantly rejected. He is sent back a second time with 
the same result. MacRoth asks whether there is any 
condition that he will accept. Cuchullin says there is ; 
but that they must discover it for themselves, as he will 
not tell them. 



in'i 



Cuchulliris Conditions 



45 — (LL. 71 a). Meave demands of Fergus what are 
the terms that Cuchullin will accept. He tells her 
reluctantly that they are these : that every day a man 
of the men of Erin be sent to give him single combat ; 
Cuchullin on his side to allow the host their progress 
without let or hindrance during the time occupied in 
killing the said man. Which killing when he shall 
have accomplished, the men of Erin to halt and camp 
until the morrow's sunrise ; Cuchullin also, for so long 
as the Raid shall last, to be clothed and fed by his 
enemies. Meave says it is better to have one warrior 
killed every day than a hundred, and gives security 
to Fergus that these conditions shall be kept faithfully. 



THE TAIN b6 CUAILGNE i6i 

Fergtis mac RdicKs Embassage 

46. Fergus sets forth in his chariot to propose 
these terms to Cuchullin. He is accompanied by 
a youth named Etarchomal, who is anxious to see the 
renowned hero. Laegh, who is playing a game at 
javelins with his master, announces them and describes 
their appearance. Cuchullin receives Fergus with a 
hearty greeting, and ironically offers him a share of 
his scanty fare. Fergus says that he is well aware how 
Cuchullin is circumstanced on the Raid, and that there- 
fore he has not come in search of provant but to notify 
that his conditions are accepted. 'And I,' said 
Cuchullin, 'engage to keep my part of the contract.' 
Then they part, lest the men of Erin should imagine 
that Fergus is playing them false, if he lingers to talk 
with his foster-son and pupil. 

EtarchomaTs Death 

47-48— (LL. 71 /8, LL. 72 a). The lad Etarchomal, 
deceived by the youthful appearance of the hero, deter- 
mines to fight him. To warn him of his danger, 
Cuchullin plays upon him two sword-feats. By the | 
first, the * under-cut,' he slices away the sod from under 
Etarchomal's soles, and lays him supine with the sod 
upon his upturned chest. By the second, the 'vigorous \ 
edge-stroke,' he takes off all his hair from poll to fore- 
head and from ear to ear, as clean as though he had 
been shaven with a razor, but without drawing blood. 
Finally, he despatches him with the 'oblique-transverse 
stroke * whereby in three simultaneously fallen segments 
the youth reaches the ground. Fergus turns to demand 
of Cuchullin why he has killed the lad who came under 



V 



i62 THE CUCHULLIN SAGA 

his safeguard, but Etarchomal's charioteer shows that 
it was entirely his master's fault The body of the 
unfortunate youth is dragged back into Meave's camp 
at the wheels of his own chariot. 



Death of Natchrantal 

49-50— (LL 72 /8). The fighting man Natchrantal 
goes out to meet Cuchullin with no other arms than 
thrice nine 'spits' of holly prepared with fine-hardened 
points. Cuchullin takes little notice of him, and con- 
tinues to stalk a flock of wild-fowl from which he hopes 
to furnish the night's meal. Natchrantal, returning 
to Meave's and Ailell's tent, boasts that so soon as 
Cuchullin had seen him, he had run away dismayed. 
Fergus sends Fiacha mac Firaba to upbraid Cuchullin 
with cowardice, but Cuchullin replies that he wounds 
never charioteers messengers and those who are 
weaponless : that he had abstained from slaying 
Natchrantal, seeing that he had no arms, but only 
timber-spits in his hands. He bids Natchrantal come 
early next morning armed to meet him. Natchrantal, 
going forth next day, fails to recognise Cuchullin, for 
his anger-paroxysm had come upon him, and so 
violently had he flung his mantle about him that it 
enwrapped not only himself, but a pillar-stone that 
stood hard by, breaking it off* short by the ground. So 
great was his frenzy that Cuchullin had no inkling that 
the pillar-stone was jammed betwixt him and his cloak 
[LL.]. The two draw near and Natchrantal hurls his 
sword ; the weapon shivers against the pillar-stone 
interposed between Cuchullin and his mantle. Then 
Cuchullin rose from off" the ground until he surmounted 



THE tAiN b6 CUAILGNE . 163 

the top rim of Natchrantal's shield, over which he lent 
him a ' flat-blow ' which took off his head. 

The finding {or acquiring) of the Brown Bull 

51 — (LL. 73 a). Meave, attended by a third part of her 
army, marches to Dunseverick northwards, seeking the 
Bull. Cuchullin, hanging upon their rear, kills many of 
her men ; he then turns back to defend his own country. 
To Cuchullin now comes Buic mac Bainblai of Ailell's 
country and of Meave's, who to the queen was a most 
singular man of trust; his number being four-and- 
twenty all clad in pleated mantles, in front of whom 
careered the Brown Bull of Cuailgne forcibly lifted out 
of Glensamasc in Slievegullion, and here accompanied 
with fifteen of his heifers.* To Cuchullin's question : 
* Whence bringest thou these few cattle ? ' Buic makes 
answer : ' Out of yon mountain.' His name also being 
required, he says : * I love thee not, neither fear thee ; 
Buic mac Bainblai from Ailell's country and from 
Meave's am I.* * Have. at thee then with this spear 1' 
Cuchullin cried, and with it laid him low. During this 
exploit, with all urgency and violence the Brown Bull 
was driven away from Cuchullin's neighbourhood and 
to the hostile camp : the greatest affront which in the 
course of the Raid was put upon Cuchullin. 

Death of Forgantan 

62— (LL. 73 /8). * At the far end ' of a fortnight [over 
a month LL.] the four great provinces of Ireland 
came in to camp. By rattling their spear-shafts on 

^ LL. says fifty heifers ; but LU. and the modem recension agree in 
giving the above number. 



i64 THE CUCHULLIN SAGA 

their shields they drove the Brown Bull and his atten- 
dant kine into a most strait pass ; which kine now 
made little gobbets and small mince of their herdsman, 
and trod his body thirty feet down into the earth. 
His name was Forgaman, and there you have the 
episode known as ' Forgaman's death. in the Raid for 
the Kine of Cuailgne.' 

53. Death of Meave's jester, Rec. 

54 — (LL. 74 a). Deaths of Ctir mac Dal^th and others. 

55 — (LL. 74 fi). Combat of Ferbaeth, Cuchullin's 
fellow-pupil. 

56 — (LL. 74 fi lin. penult.)^ Combat of Lairin mac 
N6is. 

Dialogue between Cuchullin and the Morrigti 

K 57 — (LL. 74 a). This done, Cuchullin saw draw near 
/^ him a young woman of surprising form, wrapped also in 
a mantle of many colours. * Who art thou ? ' he asked. 
She made answer : *■ Daughter of Buan the king. I am 
come to thee. For the record of thy deeds I have loved 
thee, and all my valuables arrd my cattle I bring with me.' 
* Surely,' he said, * the season is not opportune in which 
thou hast come to us ; my bloom is wasted with hard- 
ship nor, so long as in this strife I shall be engaged, is 
it easy for me to hold intercourse with a woman.' *But 
in thy labour thou shalt have mine aid.' He answered 
her : * Go to, not as putting my trust in a woman's aid 
was it that I took this job in hand.' ' It shall go hard 
with thee,' she said, * what time thou settest-to with men 
and I come to take part against thee : in shape of an 

^ This page of LL. is followed by a lacuna, equivalent to a whole folio 
of the MS. The episode following (Sec. 57) is in LU. only. 



) 



THE tAiN b6 CUAILGNE i6s 

eel, among thy legs I '11 go at the ford's bottom, so shalt 
thou fall.'^ . . . With that she went away from him. 
Thus he spent a week at the ford of Grennach, where 
by his hand daily fell a hundred men. 

Death of Ldch More ' and his brother 

58— (Add. 18748, p. 133). Then L6ch More mac 
Mofebis was summoned to Ailell's tent and Meave's, and 
he inquired saying : 'And what would ye with me ? ' * To 
have thee fight with Cuchullin,' said the queen. ' Upon 
that errand I will not go, because neither an honour 
nor a credit do I deem it to go meet a beardless hair- 
less boy. But I would not belittle him unduly ; I have 
one to meet him : Long mac Emonis my brother, who 
will accept conditions from you/ Thereupon Long 
was fetched to the royal tent, and Meave offered him 
great terms : twelve men's accoutrements of armour, a 
chariot worth four times seven bondwomen, with Fin- 
nabair to wife, and in Cruachan to have perennial 
entertainment. Straightway Long proceeds to meet 
Cuchullin, and Cuchullin kills Long. Meave now bade 
her womankind go speak with Cuchullin, and tell him 
that he must bedaub himself into the semblance of 
having a beard ; * because otherwise,' they were to say 
to him, ' not a single good warrior in the camp will think 
it consistent with his dignity to come and fight with 
thee, thou being thus smoothfaced and beardless/ 
This behest Cuchullin obeyed ; then he came upon the 

^ The rest of this conversation is almost word for word the same as that 
in the TAin b6 Regamtta, 

' L6ch More is mentioned in the 'Wooing of Emer' as one of 
Cuchullin's fellow-pupils in the school of Scathach ; Ferdia mac Daman 
too was there. 



i66 THE CUCHULLIN SAGA 

hill commanding the queen's camp and there to all and 
several exhibited his mock beard.^ When Ldch mac 
Mofcbis saw it he said : ' Why, that is a beard on CuchuU 
lin I ' ' Such certainly is the thing I see/ said Meave, 
and to Ldch she makes the same great offer as before 
to Long his brother. Accordingly, by the ford at 
which Long had fallen the two warriors met. ' Come 
away up to the higher ford/ said Ldch, ' we will not 
fight at this one/ For that ford in which his brother 
fell was unclean to him.' So they fought at the upper 
ford, and then it was that out of the sidAe came the 
Morrigu, daughter of Ernmas, to destroy Cuchullin ; to 
whom on the Raid for the Kine of Regaman ' she had 
promised that, when during /din b6 Cuailgne he should 
be engaged with some prime warrior, she would so 
come to his hurt. Thither therefore the Morrigu came 
in form of a white red-eared heifer, she having about 
her fifty other heifers, with a chain of white bronze 
between each two of them. Cuchullin made a most 
careful cast at her, and fractured an eye of the Morrigu. 
Then with the current she came in shape of a black 
eel, reached the water [in which they fought], and 
tangled in Cuchullin's legs. In the interval during 
which Cuchullin rid himself of her, Ldch wounded him. 
Then came the Morrigu in the semblance of a rough 
grey bitch-wolf and, short time as it took Cuchullin 
to despatch her, again Ldch wounded him. Therefore 

^ We are told that Cuchullin used the juice of blackberries for this 
purpose. 

' This is an interesting form of ges or tabu. The pollution caused by 
the death of a relative is common to many nations. The Jews were 
polluted for many days after a death. 

' Refer to the prophecy in the 'Appearance of the Morrigu.' {Tdin 
b6 Regamna)^ supra, p. io6. 



THE tAiN b6 CUAILGNE 167 

Cuchullin's ire rose against him,^ and he wounded him 
with the g(u bulga^ so splitting his heart within him. 

* For thine honour's love, Cuchullin, grant me a request!' 
he cried. * And what is that ? ' * No petition for quarter 
is it that I make/ said Ldch ; ' but suffer me now to rise, 
that it be on my face I fall and not backwards towards 
the men of Erin. And this is to the end that no one 
of them shall say that in derout or flight in front of thee 
I perished, as perished indeed I have this time by the 
g(u bulga' * ' That will I surely,' Cuchullin answered, 

• for a warrior's boon is that thou cravest.' With that 
Cuchullin took a rearward pace ; and hence the name 
dth troighe * the foot's ford,' which is at one end of 
Tiermore. Now on that day ^bove any other, great 
dejection fell on Cuchullin for his being all alone 
against the four great provinces of Erin. He told his 
charioteer therefore, Laegh, to depart and to seek 
Ulster, that they should come on and vindicate and 
make a fight for their Tdin ; for sadness and great 
discouragement visited Cuchullin now, and he uttered 
a lay : — 

' Go from me, Laegh, and in red-weaponed 
Emania declare in my behalf that I am 
wearied with daily waging war, that I am 
wounded and full of bloody hurts. ..." 

And there you have the combat of Cuchullin and 

^ Here LL. 75 a begins. 

' For the descriplion of this deadly weapon and method of its use see 
sec. 79. It came from the East and was given by Scathach to Aife, who 
apparently gave it to Cuchullin. With it he slew his own son Connlaech, 
as well as Ferdia. See an old poem quoted by O'Curry, Man, Cust, 
vol. ii. p. 311. 

' This is the first of nineteen quatrains. 



i68 THE CUCHULLIN SAGA 

Ldch mac Mofebis in the Raid for the Kine of 
Cuailgne. 

Death of Meave^s Three Wizards and Three Witches 

59. Then the queen detached six that all together 
should assail Cuchullin : Troigh, Dorn, and Derna ; 
Col, Accuis, and Eraise ; that is to say, three wizards 
and three witches. Cuchullin dealt with them all six 
and took off their heads ; moreover now that faith had 
been broken with him — the covenant namely that he 
should be compelled to single combat only — from 
Delga to the southward of them that day, out of his 
sling he plied the host to such effect that, whether wolf- 
dog, whether horse or man, not a being of them all 
durst southwards turn a face toward Cuchullin. 

The Healing of the Morrigu 

60 — {Ibid,). At this juncture it was that out of the 

sidhe, in the counterfeit presentment of an old crone, 

Ernmas's daughter, the Morrigu, came and appeared as 

milking a cow of three teats. The aim of her coming 

thus being that of Cuchullin she should have relief; 

/ for of all such as at any time he might have hurt, save 

j and except that in the curing of them also he had a 

I hand, none might recover and live. He then with 

thirst being in extremity, craved of her a drink and 

she gave him such measure as one teat yielded. * May 

this be to the giver's profit/ he said, and the Morrigu's 

injured eye was whole. He begged the yield of another 

teat ; she let him have it, and he pronounced a blessing 

on her that bestowed it Yet again he begged a draught, 

and she gave him the third teat. * The full blessing of 



/ 



THE tAiN b6 CUAILGNE 169 

both die and andie'^ be upon thee ! ' he said. Now * the 
people of power ' at that time they rated as die * gods/ 
and *the people of ploughing** as atuUe * non-gods.' 
The end of the matter was that hereby the Morrigu 
was healed completely. 

Continued Treachery of Meave 

61 — {Ibid) One hundred warriors all at once now 
Meave sent to assail Cuchullin. But he fell upon them, 
and by his hand they were exterminated all. ' It is an 
abomination to us/ said Meave, *to have our people 
slaughtered thus.' * That is not the first abomination 
he has wrought us/ quoth Ailell. Whence cuillenn 
cinn diiin. Therefore cuillenn ' abomination ' still is that 
spot's name, while dtA crS * ford of blood ' designates 
that ford at which they were ; as well it may, for the 
great plenty of gore and bipod which they gave to run 
with the river's current 

TIu Brislech mSr in Magh Muirthemne * and all that 

there occurred 

62 — {Ibid,), In the place called the Brislech mSr in 
the plain of Muirthemne, Ireland's four great provinces 
camped and secured themselves ; but their kine and their 
captives they sent southwards away into clithar bS 
Uladh, Hard by them Cuchullin posted himself at the 
grave that is in the Lerga, where towards eventide 

' i,e. of gods and of non-gods. 

^ i,e, the aristocracy or war-class and the plebeians or agriculturalists. 
For an interesting allusion to this passage, see ' C6ir Anmann,' § 149, 
Irische Texte, Dritte Serie, p. 355. 

' The final battle which preceded the death of Cuchullin also bears 
this name. See f/i/rn, p. 237. 



170 THE CUCHULLIN SAGA 

Laegh mac Riangabra, his chariot-driver, kin(]led him 
a fire. When now, at the fall of evening's shades, 
Cuchullin looking abroad saw the glint and gleam of 
the burnished and gilded weapons that stood up over 
the four great provinces of Erin, anger and great 
fierceness took him as he marked the vast number of 
his foemen that were so near to him. He grasped his 
two javelins, his shield and his sword. He shook his 
shield, brandished his sword, wheeled his spears, and 
from his throat gave forth his 'hero's call.' So horrific 
was the cry, that from all quarters goblins and other 
eldritch beings and the daft glen-folk answered it.^ A 
witch moreover so frenzied and confused the four great 

, provinces of Ireland, that with great hubbub they ran 

; Upon the points of each other's spears and other weapons ; 

. whereby of sheer fright and terror alone, in the camp's 
very heart and centre a hundred warriors died. 

63. Laegh then being where he was, he descried a lone 

man that out of the north-eastern quarter, and obliquely 

through the four great provinces encamped, came in a 

■ straight line towards him. 'A man comes to us, little 

J Cii I ' he cries, and : * What figure of a man is he ? ' 
Cuchullin asked. 'A tall and comely and impetuous 
man he is, and wears a green mantle which at his 
breast is fastened with a silver brooch. Next to his 
skin, and reaching to his knees, is a shirt of regal silk 
embroidered with red gold. He carries a black shield 
with hard rim of white bronze. In his hand is a five- 
barbed spear; beside him, a pronged javelin. Wonderful 

^ bocdnachSf bandttachSf geniti glittdu These mythological beings 
twice appear during the combat with Ferdia (sec. 79). They are there 
spoken of as Tuatha d^ Danann. See O'Curry, Man, Cust, vol. iii. 

pp. 425, 449. 



THE tAiN b6 CUAILGNE 171 

indeed is the manner of his progress, the mode and 
semblance of his action. Him no man notices,^ no 
man he heeds, even as though in that great camp none 
saw him.' 'True it is, my servitor,' said Cuchullin, 
'and 'tis some one of my fairy kin that comes to 
succour and to solace me ; for they know the tribula- 
tion in which now, upon this Raid for the Kine of 
Cuailgne, I as against the four great provinces of 
Ireland am involved.' 

64. Cuchullin was quite right. The approaching 
warrior when he was come up to him spoke to him, 
and for the greatness of his travail and the length of 
time for which he had lacked sleep, condoled with him, 
saying : * Sleep then, Cuchullin, and by the grave in the 
Lerga slumber deeply, until three days with their three 
nights be ended. During which space, upon yonder host 
I myself will exercise my skill in arms.' By the grave that 
is in the Lerga, for three days accordingly Cuchullin 
slept a torpid sleep. Nor were the duration and pro- 
foundness of his stupor things at which to marvel, 
considering how great his weariness necessarily must 
have been. 

For to be precise: from the Monday immediately 
before Samhain to the Wednesday next after the Feast 
of Bridget* — during all that time, I say — saving only a 
brief snatch at mid^day, he never slept ; and even that 
was taken as he leaned on his spear, his head resting on 
his fist, and his fist closed around the spear-shaft, this 

^ Compare the equally dignified and unobserved appearance of Finn after 
the Battle of Gaura, Trans, Ossianic Soc,y vol. i. p. 127. 

' i,e. From the Monday before Oct 31st (Hallowe'en) to the first of 
February. LL. has the old Pagan name imbcle, i,e, the spring season, 
instead of its later Christian substitute, St. Bridget's Festivsil. See Bock 
of Rights^ ed. O'Donovan, Introd. liii-lv. 



172 THE CUCHULLIN SAGA 

last also resting on his .knee. Rather did he employ 
that interval in hewing and in felling, in slaughter and 
in ruin of the four great provinces. Cuchullin thus 
being lulled to rest, to his wounds and hurts forthwith 
that warrior laid balsams and healing herbs of fairy 
potency ; so that as he slept, nor knew that which was 
wrought in him, the hero made a good recovery. 

65. Now was the time and this the hour at which 
out of the north the boy-corps from Emania came to 
help Cuchullin : thrice fifty lads of the sons of Ulster's 
leading chiefs, captained by Conachar's son Follaman. 
Three battles they delivered against all Ireland ; in 
which encounters fell three times their own number of 
the enemy, but the boy-corps suffered perdition utterly.^ 
Follaman alone escaped. Who threatened then that 
never would he return to Emania before he should 
carry off Ailell's head, with the golden diadem that 
surrounded it. This however was a matter that proved 
to be not so easy for him, seeing that Bethach* mac 
Baen's two sons (sons, that is to say, of a couple that 
to Ailell had been nurse and guardian) fell on him and 
wounded him to death. There then and thus far you 
have the destruction of the boy-corps and of Conachar's 
son Follaman. 

66 — (LL. 76 )8). As touching Cuchullin again : until 
the end of those three days and three nights, at the 
grave that was in the Lerga he continued in his heavy 
drowsy trance. Then he rose from sleep and passed 

^ This episode has been introduced from our Saga into the later Finn 
Saga. See * Battle of Ventry Harbour,' ed. Prof. Kuno Meyer, Anec. 
Oxon., Medixval Series, vol. i. pt. iv. Zimmer points out many corre- 
sponding instances of borrowed episodes in Keltische Beiirage, iii., Zeii* 
schriftfUr DetiL Alter (hum ^ 1 89 1 

' LL. calls him Beth. 



THE tAiN b6 CUAILGNE 173 

his hand over his face ; from his crown to the ground 
he blushed all crimson red, he felt his courage 
strengthened in him, and he would have entered any 
assembly or place or carousing-house or great conven- 
tion whatsoever of all Ireland. * Warrior/ said he, ' how 
long am I thus asleep ? * * Three days and three nights,' 
the other answered. * Whereby thou hast done me an 
evil turn indeed,' said CuchuUin. ' Why now, how so ? ' 
' In that for that space the host of Erin have been un- 
molested.' * But not so have they been.' * And who 
then has fallen upon them?' 'Out of the north 
Emania's boy-corps came, led by Conachar's son 
Follaman, and during thy sleeping-spell thrice gave 
battle to the provinces. . . .'^ 'Alas and alas, that I 
was not there!' cried Cuchullin; *for had I been at 
hand, never had the boy-corps been extinguished as 
now they are, neither had Conachar's son Follaman 
perished.' ' Take comfort, little Cu : 'tis no disgrace 
to thy weapon-skill, and to their honour no affront' 
'Warrior,' Cuchullin said, 'this night abide with me, 
that both together we avenge the boy-corps.' ' By no 
means will I tarry,' quoth the stranger ; ' for no matter 
what and how great deeds of valour one should achieve 
in thy companionship, not to himself but to thee would 
accrue the fame renown and glory of them every one. 
For this reason it is that I will not tarry with thee ; but 
rather wreak thou thy fury on them, seeing that at this 
present 'tis not they that have power of thy life [t\e. 
that shall prevail over thee to slay thee}' 

^ Here particulars are repeated verbatim as above. The modem MS. 
gives them in full, but BL. cuts them short with an 'etc' 



174 THE CUCHULLIN SAGA 

The Scythed Chariot 

67. Thereupon Cuchullin said : ' O my tutor Laegh, 
canst thou tackle for me the scythed chariot — that is to 
say, if thou hast with thee paraphernalia and gear of the 
same?' With that, up rose Laegh and donned his 
charioteer's accoutrement, a suit to which belonged the 
following: a graceful frock of skins, light and airy, 
spotted and striped ; it was made of deer-skins, close- 
fitting so as not to interfere with the free action of his 
arms outside. . . } 

The passage ends as follows : Cuchullin then threw 

{ over him his mantle of invisibility, manufactured from 

the precious fleeces of the land of the immortals, which 

had been brought to him by Manannan mac Lir, from 

the king of Sorcha. 

Cuchullin* s DistortiovT^ 

68— (LL. 77 )8). Then it was that he suffered his nVw- 
tradh or paroxysm, whereby he became a fearsome 
and multiform and wondrous and hitherto unknown 
1 being. All over him, from his crown to the ground, his 
flesh and every limb and joint and point and articula- 
tion of him quivered as does a tree, yea a bulrush, in 
mid-current. Within in his skin he put forth an un- 
1 natural effort of his body : his feet, his shins, and his 
• knees shifted themselves and were behind him ; his heels 
\ and calves and hams were displaced to the front of his 
leg-bones, in condition such that their knotted muscles 
stood up in lumps large as the clenched fist of a fighting 

^ For this long descriptive passage on the dress of Laegh and Cuchullin, 
see 0*Curry's Man, Cust,^ vol. ii. p. 299. 



THE tAiN b6 CUAILGNE I7S 

man. The frontal sinews of his head were dragged to 
the back of his neck, where they showed in lumps 
bigger than the head of a man-child aged one month. 
Then his face underwent an extraordinary transforma- 
tion : one eye became engulfed in his head so far that 
'tis a question whether a wild heron could have got at 
it where it lay against his occiput, to drag it out upon 
the surface of his cheek ; the other eye on the contrary 
protruded suddenly, and of itself so rested upon the 
cheek. His mouth was twisted awry till it met his 
ears. His lion's gnashings caused flakes of fire, each 
one larger than fleece of three-year-old wether, to 
stream from his throat into his mouth [and so outwards]. 
The sounding blows of the heart that panted within 
him were as the howl of a ban-dog doing his office, or of 
a lion in the act of charging bears. Among the aerial 
clouds over his head were visible the virulent pouring 
showers and sparks of ruddy fire which the seething of 
his savage wrath caused to mount up above him. His 
hair became tangled about his head, as it had been 
branches of a red thorn-bush stuffed into a strongly 
fenced gap [to block it] ; over the which though a prime 
apple-tree had been shaken, yet may we surmise that 
never an apple of them would have reached the ground, 
but rather that all would have been held impaled each on 
an individual hair as it bristled on him for fury. His 
* hero's paroxysm ' projected itself out of his forehead, 
and showed longer [as well as thicker LU.] than the 
whet-stone of a first-rate man-at-arms. Taller, thicker, 
more rigid, longer than mast of a great ship was the 
perpendicular jet of dusky blood which out of his scalp's 
very central point shot upwards and then was scattered 
to the four cardinal points; whereby was formed a 



\ 



176 THE CUCHULLIN SAGA 

magic mist of gloom resembling the smoky pall that 
drapes a regal dwelling, what time a king at night-fall 
of a winter's day draws near to it. 

69. This distortion being now past which had been 
operated in Cuchullin, he leaped into the scythed 

; chariot^ that was equipped with iron points, with thin 
, [t\e. sharp] edges, with hooks, with hard spit-spikes, with 
machinery for opening it, with sharp nails that studded 
over its axles and straps and curved parts and tackle. 
Then he delivered a thunder-feat of a hundred, one of 
two hundred, one of three hundred, one of four hundred, 
and stood at a thunder-feat of five hundred ; and he 
went so far, because he felt it to be obligatory on him 
that in this his first set-to and grappling with the four 
provinces of Erin, even such a number must fall by his 
hand. In which guise then he goes forward to assault 
his enemies, lending the chariot such impulse that its 
iron [shod] wheels sank in the earth and made ruts 
which well might have served as earth-works of defence ; 
for both stones and rocks, both flags and the earth's 
bottom-gravel on either hand were heaped up outside 
the wheels and to an equal height with them. 

70, The reason which moved him this day to make 
such hostile demonstration round about the men of Erin 
[for he careered round them in a circle] was that he 
designed thus to ensure that they should not escape him, 
neither should dissolve away from him, before he should 
have avenged the boy-corps on them. Then he charged 
them, and all round the host on their outer side he drew 
a fence built up of his enemies' carcasses. An onfall of 

^ The Scythed Chariot or carpcU seems to have been used only on 
rare occasions. See O'Curry's Man, CusL^ vol. i. cccclxxxii., vol. ii. 
299-302. 



THE tAiN b6 CUAILGNE 177 

a foeman on foemen indeed was this attack of his, for 
they fell sole to sole and trunk to trunk. Thrice in 
this wise he made the circuit of them, thereby leaving 
them laid in sexuple slaughter: the soles of three 
against the headless bodies of three more. Hence 
seisreach brislighe ' the seisreach of the brisUach ' ^ is the 
name of this episode in the Tdin of which it constitutes 
the third great carnage, the three being : the seisreach^ 
the affair of Glenomna, and the [final] battle of Gftir- 
ech and Ilg^irech. In which seisreach wolfdog, horse, 
and man indiscriminately were heaped together, and 
some do say that there Lugh mac Ethlenn fought for 
Cuchullin. It were not possible to count up all that 
fell of the plebeian herd ; but their lords and chiefs 
have been numbered : six-score and ten kings Cuchullin 
slew in that great brisleach [* smash-up '] of Magh Muir- 
themne, besides their horses, women, boys, and little 
people and plebeians ; for ' the third man of the men of 
Erin ' \i,e. every third man or one-third of them] escaped 
not from Cuchullin but with fracture of a hip-bone, of 
one hemisphere of his skull, of one eye, or with some 
lasting blemish imprinted on him. This done, Cu- 
chullin turned and left them, yea, and without blood 
drawn on himself, on his horse, or on his servitor. 

Description of Cuchullin* s Person 

71 — (LL. 78 )8). On the morrow Cuchullin came to 
view the host ; also to exhibit himself in his [natural] 

^ This is a kind of play upon words not possible to render in a diflferent 
tongue. O'Reilly's Dictionary gives the meaning of seisreach as 'a 
plough of six horses.' And in O'Curry's, Man, Cast, Glossary, ' a seisreach 
of new milk ' is said to be a quantity sufficient for six persons. Here it 
seems to mean a ploughland of six horses in reference to the sixfold 
slaughter in the brisleach mSrot ' Great Rout ' of the plain of Muirthemne. 

M 



178 THE CUCHULLIN SAGA 

form of beauty to the wives and womankind and girls 
and lasses, to the poets and professors of the men of 
Erin, for not by any means did he plume himself upon 
the horrid magic- wrought disguise in which they the 
night before had seen him wrapt. To show them all 
his comeliness therefore, that day he came. A hand- 
some lad truly was he that stood there then : Cuchullin 
son of Sualtam. Three sets of hair^ he had: next 
to the skin of his head, brown ; in the middle, 
crimson ; that which covered him on the outside 
formed as it were a diadem of gold, seeing that 
cofnparable to yellow gold was each glittering long- 
curling splendid beauty-coloured thread of the same, 
as free and loose it fell down and hung betwixt his 
shoulders. About his neck were a hundred linklets of 
red gold that flashed again, with pendants hanging from 
them. His headgear was adorned with a hundred 
mixed carbuncle jewels, strung.' On either cheek four 
moles he had : a yellow, a green, a blue, a red. In 
either eye seven pupils, as it were seven sparkling 
gems. Either foot of the twain was garnished with 
seven toes; both this hand and that, with as many 
fingers ; each one of which [i.e. fingers and toes] was 
endowed with clutch of hawk's talon, with grip of 
hedgehog's claw. He dons his gorgeous raiment that 
he wore in great conventions : a fair crimson tunic 
of five plies and fringed, with a long pin of white silver, 
gold-enchased and patterned, shining as it had been a 
luminous torch which for its blazing property and 
brilliance men might not endure to see. Next to his 

^ The original means that each hair was of three hues : brown, crimson, 
and gold. 
' This is the general sense ; the meaning is obscure. 



THE tAiN b6 CUAILGNE 179 

skin, a body- vest of silk bordered and fringed all round 
with gold with silver and with white bronze [t\e. with 
braid etc., made of thread of these metals] ; which vest 
came as far as the upper edge of his russet-coloured kilt. 
A trusty special shield, in hue dark crimson, and in its 
circumference armed with a pure white silver rim. At 
his left side, a long and golden-hilted sword. Beside him 
in the chariot, a lengthy spear ; together with a keen 
'aggression-boding' javelin, fitted with 'hurling' thong, 
with rivets of white bronze. In one hand he carried 
nine heads, nine also in the other ; the which in token 
of valour and of skill in arms he held at arm's length, 
and in sight of all the army shook. 

Jealousy of Dubtach dael Uladh 

72— (LL. 79 a). Under an ' ox-vat '^ of shields Meave 
that day hid her face, for fear lest with his sling Cu- 
chuUin might make a mark of her. Then the woman- 
kind of the men of Erin besought them that on 
platforms made of their bucklers they might be 
hoisted to the level of warriors' shoulders, and so have 
it given to them to look upon Cuchullin's form ; for 
they marvelled to see the more than comely and mild 
and gentle figure which to-day he made, as compared 
with the unnatural hideous terrible disguise that 
had deformed him yesterday. But at this point, 
envy and jealousy of Cuchullin filled the breast of 
Dubtach dael Uladh ; for he saw his own wife zealous 
in climbing with the other women to inspect the hero. 
Therefore Dubtach counselled them of the army, that 

^ A 'testudo' of shields, ue, a party of men held Uieir shields inter- 
locked over Meave 's head and around her for protection. 



i8o THE CUCHULLIN SAGA 

guilefully they should compass his destruction by 
means of ambushes surrounding him on all sides ; so 
should he fall. And Dubtach uttered these words : 

' If he be the Riastartha . . .' 

Fergus hearing this guileful counsel of Dubtach, 
inflicts upon him summary chastisement ; and he utters 
a poem which proclaims the evil acts of Dubtach, and 
foreshadows the terrible deeds about to follow in 
requital, when the hosts of Ulster shall arise from their 
long torpor and descend to the aid of CuchuUin. 

This then is the Brislech mdr of Magh Muirthemne, 
and the Scythed Chariot. 

73— (LL. 79 13). Death of Angus, son of Aenldmh 
gdibhe. 

74 — (LL. 79 )8). The Shooting-error of Beladi eoin^ 
' the Pass of the Birds.' 

76— (LL 79 /8). The ' Thatching of the Stump.' 

Fight of Fergus and CuchuUin 

76 — (LL 79 /8). That night the four great provinces 
of Ireland pitched camp and lay at the great stone which 
is in the land of Ross ; and Meave inquired for some 
one of them who should do battle on the morrow with 
CuchuUin. But every soul of the men of Ul§tfiL3aid \^ 
* Not I — it is not I who will go — my race is not called 
upon to furnish a condemned criminal.' 

Meave now requested of Fergus that he would fight 
with CuchuUin, for the men of Erin in general had 
refused the task. Fergus objected : * It is not right to 
demand this of me, that I should encounter with a 
young and beardless stripling ; with one, moreover, who 
to me stands in the position of disciple.' 



THE tAIN b6 CUAILGNE i8i 

Nevertheless, and with her entreaties so urgently did 
Meave press him, that Fergus could not choose but 
take the thing in hand. At early morn he arose there- 
fore and betook him to the ford of combat, where Cuchul- 
lin was. Who seeing Fergus draw near, exclaimed: 
'In perilous guise thou comest to fight, Fergus my 
guardian, without a sword I' (That was true for him 
[;>. Cuchullin was justified in making this remark] 
because that, a year before these hostings of the 
T^in, on a hillside in Cruachan, Ailell had discovered 
Fergus making love to Meave, his sword in his near 
vicinity hanging on a bough. Ailell, unobserved, 
abstracted the weapon from its sheath, putting a 
wooden sword in its place ; and vowed that never 
would he return it to the owner before the day of 
the great battle; that one in which the men of 
Erin should meet and contend in the grand battle of 
the Raid for the Kine of Cuailgne, at G&irech and 
Ilgftirech.)^ 'Never a whit matters it,' said Fergus; 
' for though the scabbard held a sword, yet would I not 
use it on thee. And now, for sake of the nurture which 
I, Conachar also and all Ulster gave thee, in sight of 
the men of Erin this day fly thou before me.' Cuchullin 
answered : ' Loath indeed am I to do this thing, to fly 
before any warrior in the Raid.' 'No need for such 
repugnance/ quoth Fergus ; ' for in my turn, what 
time in the great final battle of the Raid thou shalt be 
full of wounds and drenched in blood, before thee I 
will fly.* Now when once I run, the men of Erin too 

' This episode is somewhat differently related in LU. See Zimmer's 
abstract, KeUiscki Sludien^ p. 451. It also occurs earlier in the order of 
the story. 

' This promise was fulfilled in the final battle of G&irech and Ilg&irecb, 
sec 118. 



i82 THE CUCHULLIN SAGA 

will run all.' So eager was Cuchullin to work out 
Ulster's profit, that [at his behest] his chariot was 
brought to him ; he mounted it and, as though utterly 
discomforted, in sight of all Ireland before Fergus head- 
long fled. They marking this cried out: *A flight is 
being made before thee, Fergus.' 'With speed, O 
Fergus, follow him up that he escape thee not I ' was 
Meave's ejaculation. * Verily and in sooth not so,' said 
Fergus ; ' further than this I will not follow him. 
Trifling as in your eyes may be the modicum of flight 
that I have * knocked out of him ' [i.e. put him to], for 
all that, and many of them as in this Raid have had to 
do with him, never a one of all the men of Erin as yet 
has done as much. Neither will I, before they all singly 
shall have fought with him, any more assail him.' This 
then and thus far is the Fight of Fergus and Cuchullin. 
77— (LL 80 a). The anni^ * head-place ' [the place 
where he left his head] of Ferchfl the Exile. 

F(gAf of Calatin and his Twenty-seven Sons 

78 — (LL. 80 a). Again the men of Erin debated the 
question of whom at early dawn on the morrow they 
should send to single combat with Cuchullin, and 
unanimously they declared that it must be Calatin 
ddna with his score and seven sons, and his sister's 
son, who was Glas mac Delga. The manner of whom 
all was this: every man of them was endowed with 
poisonous quality, each individual weapon of their 
armament also being envenomed ; not one of them 
ever. hurled spear or slung stone that missed ; and none 
whose blood was drawn by any one of them, but either 
incontinently or before nine days were out he was 



THE TAiN b6 CUAILGNE 183 

merely a dead man. To these men then great condi- 
tions were offered as the price of going to face 
CuchuUin. They took in hand to fight this fight, and 
in presence of Fergus it was that the business was 
'knotted' [t\e. finally settled]. The universal voice 
was that they for their part looked upon Calatin 
with his twenty-seven sons and his sister's son as 
fairly constituting but the equivalent of one antagonist 
in a single combat, for they averred that the gang 
of them were so many of Calatin's own organs, and 
that to Calatin assuredly belonged the total of his 
own body's constituent parts. This done, Fergus be- 
took him to his tent and to his people. Once there, 
loudly he groaned in exceeding trouble, saying : * Alas, 
for the deed to be done to-morrow I' 'And what 
deed may that be?' they inquired. 'The slaying of 
Cuchullin I ' 'But who shall kill him ? ' ' Calatin with 
his twenty-seven sons and his sister's son, Glas mac 
Delga. The manner of whom is this [repeat as above 
to " dead man."] And were there of you all one that 
should go to learn for me whether in this combat 
Cuchullin be slain, I would bestow on him my benedic- 
tion, together with all my armature.' ' I will go on 
that errand,' said Fiacha mac Firaba. They passed 
that night. In the morning Calatin ddna with his 
sons and his sister's son rose and proceeded to 
Cuchullin's ground, Fiacha mac Firaba also accom- 
panying them. Calatin and his, when now they were 
within range of Cuchullin, in one volley discharged 
their nine-and-twenty javelins at him, nor did a single 
one of them miss and go past him. With his shield 
Cuchullin performed the 'edge-feat,' and up to their 
bulges the whole set of spears entered into the shield. 



/ 



i84 THE CUCHULLIN SAGA 

This could not be called a miss on their part, yet 
never a javelin of them drew blood or * reddened ' on 
him. Out of the sheath then CuchuUin drew his 
sword, for the purpose of lopping off the missiles and 
of thereby lightening his buckler on him. Even as he 
was busied with this lopping, they ran at him and on 
his head laid all their twenty-nine right hands. His 
face and countenance they thrust and bent down [$.€. 
strove hard to do so] to the ford's gravel and sand. 
Stentoriously he emitted his hero's roar, and his cry 
of dire distress in unequal fight, and in the camp was 
not a man of Ulster (and he not asleep) but heard 
him. Then Fiacha mac Firaba came to him and, 
when he saw Cuchullin's plight, a great wave of affec- 
tion swept over him ; he plucked his sword from its 
protecting sheath and warlike scabbard, and dealt 
them a single stroke with which he pruned from them 
their nine-and-twenty right hands, with the result that 
(owing to the grip they held and the strain that was 
on them) they all fell backwards. Cuchullin raised 
his head and fetched his breath and drew a deep 
sigh of relief, and saw him that had succoured him. 
* That was leisurely and deliberately done, my trusty 
comrade T ^ he cried ; but Fiacha made answer : 'How- 
ever much so it may have been for thee, for us on the 
contrary, the consequences may be neither leisurely 
nor slow. For in the men of Erin's camp we are thirty 
hundred of clan Rury's best ; and for all thou mayest 
choose to belittle the stroke I struck for thee, yet shall 
we all, if it be known "on me" [the Irish idiom = * if 
my deed be reported '], be given to the sword's edge 

^ Cuchullin speaks sarcastically. He means that Fiacha might have 
interfered sooner and sfLved him from getting such a knocking about. 



THE tAIN b6 CUAILGNE i8s 

and to point of spear.' * I pledge my word/ Cuchullin 
said, ' that, since now I have lifted my head and drawn 
my breath, unless thyself shall tell tales "on thee," 
'tis not any one of those will do it' With that, 
Cuchullin fell upon them and took to hack and hew 
them, until at last both eastwards and westwards 
over the face of the ford he dismissed them from him 
in small joints and in disintegrated quarters. One 
man, however, Glas mac Delga, took to his heels and 
so got away. Cuchullin bounded after him ; neverthe- 
less still Glas eluded him, and won to Meave's tent 
and Ailell's. But no more than ' Fiacha, Fiacha . . . I ' 
could he manage to gasp out when Cuchullin gave 
him one blow and struck off his head. 

'Fergus,' said Meave, 'what fiacha "debts" are those 
he mentioned?' 'That I know not,' quoth Fergus, 
' unless it were that some one in the camp owed him 
some such, and that that was what occupied his mind. 
However that may be, to him at all events it is a debt 
of flesh and blood. Upon my word, and verily 'tis 
now and all together his debts are paid him, seeing 
that Calatin with his seven-and-twenty sons and his 
grandson^ Glas mac Delga, are fallen.' In that ford 
still the stone endures on which they had the dragging- 
match [or 'tug-of-war'] and tussled hand-to-hand. In 
which stone are the prints of their swords* hilts,* the 
marks of their knees and elbows, and of their spears' 
butt-ends. Therefore dth iarrainn^ ' ford of iron ' 
(to the westward of dth Firdiadh^ * Ferdia's Ford,') is 

^ Here the modern MS. replaces nia 'sister's son/ by ua 'grandson.' 
This is the LL. reading throughout, and fits in with the curious argument 
used above. 

' See Grimm's Teut, Afyik,^ ed. Stallybrass, p. 1396. 



i86 THE CUCHULLIN SAGA 

that same ford's name; and the reason for which it 
is so styled is that there ' was there blood on edges ' 
[t\e. edged weapons were well dipped in blood]. 
This then is the iight of Calatin ddna and his sons and 
his grandson, Glas mac Delga, with Cuchullin.^ 

TAe Combat of Cuchullin and Ferdia 

Here follows the combat of Cuchullin with Ferdia, of which we 
here reproduce a portion from O'Curry's Man. CusL^ vol. iii. 
Appendix i. pp. 414-463, where the episode is given in extenso. 
It is taken from LL., not from the modem manuscript, from 
which most of the above translation is made, and an outline of 
it is given in Man, Cusi,^ vol. ii. pp. 302-312. These translations 
being easily accessible, we have not thought it necessary to 
reproduce the whole of the section, but it should be read by all 
students of Irish romantic literature. Its tenderness, pathos, 
and high ideal of chivalrous honour exceed anything that the 
Arthurian saga can show, and perhaps cannot be surpassed in 
any literature. The episode is interspersed with numerous lays. 

79. Meave, partly by flattery and the promise of 
Finnabair to wife, partly by the dread of satire, incites 
Ferdia, Cuchullin's fellow-pupil in the schools of 
Scathach, of Uathach, and of Aife, to do combat with 
him. Fergus goes forward to warn Cuchullin that 
it is needful that he should be cautious and prepared, 
because Ferdia, his equal in feats and deeds of valour, 
is about to offer him combat. 

In Ferdia's tent that night there is no merriment 
or pastime ; they are cheerless, sorrowful, and di- 
spirited, knowing that from any combat in which 
their master and Cuchullin met, one of them would 
not return alive. Ferdia sleeps heavily during the 

^ These semi-superhuman beings were destined to destroy Cuchullin 
in a later fight. ' BaUle of Muirthemne,' infraf p. 239. 



THE tAiN b6 CIJAILGNE 187 

first half of the night, but as dawn approaches his 
sleep departs from him, and the anxiety of the battle 
presses hard upon him. He commands his charioteer 
to harness his horses and yoke his chariot. His 
charioteer endeavours to dissuade him, but Ferdia 
insists on proceeding to the ford, which they reach at 
earliest dawn of day. Here the charioteer spreads 
for him the cushions and skins of the chariot, and 
Ferdia takes deep sleep and repose. 

Cuchullin on the contrary did not arise until the 
full light of day had come, lest the men of Erin should 
say that he had arisen early through fear or dread of 
the battle. Then, surrounded by the bocdnachs and 
bandnachs and geniti glindi^ and demons of the air, 
who shouted round him, he proceeded to the ford (i>. 
dth Firdiadh ang. Ardee). 

Ferdia's driver hears the thunder of the approaching 
chariot, and awakens his master with a lay in praise 
of the valour of Cuchullin. Ferdia reproaches him 
for lauding his enemy. With that Cuchullin reached 
the ford. Ferdia stood on the south side of the ford, 
and Cuchullin drew up on the north side. Ferdia 
bade his adversary welcome. ' I am happy at thy 
coming, O Cuchullin,' said Ferdia. 'Thy welcome 
would have been pleasant to me at any earlier time ; 
but this day I deem it not the welcome of true friend- 
ship,' said the hero. 'Moreover, O Ferdia, it were 
fitter that I bade thee welcome than that thou shouldst 
welcome me, because it is into my own province and 
country that thou art come to fight with me. It were 
more meet that I had gone abroad to fight with thee.' 
Ferdia asks him what it is that has brought him out 
to fight at all, since, when they were companions in 



i88 THE CUCHULLIN SAGA 

the School of Scathach, Cuchullin had been his 
attendant, to tie up his spears and to prepare his bed. 
CuchulUn says that this is true : that then he acted as 
junior to Ferdia, but that henceforth a different story 
will be told ; for there is not in the whole world a 
champion that he is not ready to meet that day. 
Then by sharp unfriendly invectives they incite each 
other to valour, and Cuchullin in a poetical dialogue 
seeks to dissuade Ferdia from the combat 'Good, 
now, O Ferdia,' said Cuchullin, *thou shouldst not 
have come to combat and to iight with me. For when 
we were with Scathach, with Uathach, and with Aife, 
side by side we went to every battle and every battle- 
field, to every fight and every combat, to every forest 
and every wilderness, through every darkness and 
every difficulty. 

* We were heart companions 
We were comrades in assemblies 
We were fellows of the same bed 
Where we used to sleep the deep sleep. . . .' 

'O Cuchullin of the beautiful feats/ said Ferdia, 
'though together we have studied arts of science, and 
though I have listened to [the recital of] our bonds of 
friendship, it is by me that thy first wounds shall 
come ; remember not our comradeship, O Hound, for 
it shall not avail thee — O Hound, it shall not avail 
thee.' 

They then discuss the arms to which they shall first 
resort, and Cuchullin says that the choice lies with 
Ferdia, for he it was that first reached the ford. 
'Dost thou remember,' said Ferdia, 'the missive 
weapons we used to practise with Scathach ? ' 'I 
remember them indeed,' said Cuchullin. ' If thou dost 



THE tAIN b6 CUAILGNE 189 

remember them, let us have recourse to them/ said 
Ferdia, 

So they take their missive shields^ in their hands, 
and their eight turned handled spears, and their eight 
little quill spears, and their eight ivory-hilted swords, 
and their eight sharp ivory-handled spears. They fly 
backwards and forwards between them like bees on 
the wing on a sunny day. Till midday they fight with 
these weapons, yet, though not one of them misses its 
mark, so good is the defence that during that time 
no blood is drawn on either of them. * Let us drop 
these feats now, CuchuUin,' said Ferdia, ' for it is not 
by these that our battle will be decided.' 'Let us 
desist, indeed, if the time be come,' said Cuchullin. 

Again Ferdia has the choice of weapons, and until 
eventide they fight with their spears, and though the 
defence was most excellent, yet was the casting so 
good that either of them bled and reddened and 
wounded the other in that space. 

' Let us now desist for the present, O CuchuUin,' said 
Ferdia. 'Let us indeed desist if the time be come/ 
said Cuchullin. They ceased. They threw away 
their weapons from them into the hands of their 
charioteers. Each of them forthwith approached the 
other, and each put his arms around the other's neck 
and gave him three kisses. Their horses were in the 
same paddock that night and their charioteers were 
at the same fire ; and for the champions their chariot- 
eers spread beds of green rushes, with wounded men's 

^ These were shields with sharp edges which were thrown vertically or 
horizontally. Two other instances of their use occur in this tract (sees. 
86 and 95). The other ' missive weapons * must have been small javelins 
and spears. 



I90 THE CUCHULLIN SAGA 

pillows. The professors of healing and curing came to 
heal and to cure them, and they applied herbs and 
plants of healing and of curing to their stabs and 
cuts and gashes, and to all their wounds. Of every 
herb and healing plant that was applied to the stabs 
and cuts and gashes and to all the wounds of CuchuUin, 
he would send an equal portion westward over the 
ford to Ferdia, so that the men of Erin might not be 
able to say, should Ferdia fall by him, that it was by 
better means of cure that he had gotten the victory 
over him. And of each kind of food, and of palatable, 
pleasant, intoxicating drink that was sent by the men 
of Erin to Ferdia, he would send a fair moiety over 
the ford northwards to CuchuUin ; because the pur- 
veyors of Ferdia were more numerous than those of 
CuchuUin. To Ferdia, for beating back Cuchullin from 
them, all the men of Erin were purveyors ; but only 
the men of Bregia purveyed for Cuchullin. 

The second day they fight from their chariots with 
broad spears, and at night they are so fatigued and 
lacerated with the combat, that, birds, if it had been 
their custom in flight to pass through the bodies of 
men, might have passed through their bodies, and 
carried off pieces of flesh. At night they show each 
other the same attention and courtesies, making inter- 
change of food and medicine. Their horses are placed 
in the same enclosure, and their charioteers sleep at 
the same fire. 

In the morning Cuchullin perceives a dark and ill- 
boding cloud resting upon the face of Ferdia. ' Badly 
thou lookest to-day, O Ferdia,' said he. *Thy hair 
this day has grown darker, and thine eye drowsy, and 
thine own form and features and appearance are 



THE TAIN BO CUAILGNE 191 

departed from thee.' 'Not through fear or terror is 
it so/ said Ferdia, 'for in all Erin is there not this 
day a champion that I could not overthrow.' And 
Cuchullin lamented : 

CUCHULLIN. ' O Ferdia, if it be thou, 

Thine honour is fallen low, 

To have come, at a woman's bidding. 

To fight with thy fellow-pupil.' 

Ferdia. ' O Cuchullin, inflictor of wounds, 
O valiant man, O true champion 1 
A man is constrained to come 
To the sod where his final grave shall be. . . .' 

After this lay of mutual faith and compliment, 
again they fall to smiting each other, this time with 
very heavy, hard-smiting swords. Each of them, from 
dawn to the hour of evening's close, continued to hew 
and to hack the other in this manner. 

'Let us now desist from this, O Cuchullin,' said 
Ferdia. 

' Let us desist, indeed, if the time be now come,' said 
Cuchullin. 

They ceased. They cast their arms from them into 
the hands of their charioteers. Their meeting in 
the morning had been pleasant, happy, spirited, but 
their separation that night was mournful, sorrowful, 
disheartened. 

Their horses were not in the same enclosure that 
night Their charioteers were not at the same fire. 
They rested there that night Then Ferdia arose early 
next morning, and went forward alone to the ford of 
battle. For he knew that on that day the combat and 
the fight would be decided ; and he knew that one of 



192 THE CUCHULLIN SAGA 

them would fall there on that day, or that both of them 
would fall. 

And he put on his battle-suit of combat before the 
coming of Cuchullin. And that battle-suit of combat 
was as follows: a kilt of striped silk with a border 
of spangled gold upon it, next his white skin. Out- 
side, well sewed over it, an apron of brown leather 
on the lower part of his body. Over that again 
he put a huge stone as big as a mill-stone, to defend 
his body below. And above all he put on his firm 
deep apron of iron, of purified iron, over the great 
stone, through dread of the gae bulga on that day. 
Upon his head he wore his crested helmet of battle, on 
which were four [or forty] gems, carbuncles, in each 
compartment; moreover, it was studded with cruan 
and crystal and carbuncles, and with brilliant rubies of 
the eastern world. In his right hand he took his 
destructive, sharp-pointed, strong spear, and on his left 
side hung his curved sword of battle, with its golden 
hilt, and its pommel of red gold. He slung on his 
back his huge, large-bossed, beautiful shield, on which 
were fifty bosses, each of which would bear the weight 
of a full-grown hog, not to mention the great central 
boss of red gold. 

The two combatants then display before each other 
many marvellous feats which they never had learned 
from any tutor, but had invented for themselves. Then 
they fell to work, and a terrific combat ensued, Laegh 
the charioteer admonishing and urging Cuchullin for- 
ward whenever he seemed about to give way, according 
to the instructions given him by his master. Three 
times Cuchullin succeeded in springing upon the boss 
of Ferdia's shield, with purpose to strike his head from 



THE tAiN b6 CUAILGNE 193 

above, and three times he was cast off into the water 
of the ford.^ 

It was then that, as before, Cuchuliin's distortion 
came on, and he was filled with swelling and great 
fulness, like breath in a bladder, until he became a 
terrible, fearful, many-coloured, wonderful Tuaig (giant), . 
and he the great and valiant champion became as big I 
as a Fomor, or man of the sea, in perfect height over 
Ferdia, 

So close was the iight they made, that their heads 
met above, and their feet below, and their arms in the 
middle over the rims and bosses of their shields. So ' 
close was the fight they made, that they cleft and 
loosened their shields from their rims to their centres. 
So close was the fight they made, that they turned and 
bent and shivered their spears from their points to their 
handles. Such was the closeness of the fight they made 
that the bocdnachs and bandnachs^ and wild people of 
the glens,^ and demons of the air, screamed from the 
rims of their shields, and from the hilts of their swords, 
and from the shafts of their spears. Such was the close- 
ness . of the fight they made, that they cast the river 
out of its bed, and out of its course, so that it might 
have been a reclining and reposing couch for a king 
and queen in the middle of the ford,. for there was 
not a drop of water in it, unless it dropped into it by 
the trampling and hewing made by the two champions 
in the middle of the ford. 

^ There b a parallel passage in Cuchullin*s combat with Elcho gias in the 
' Second Feast of Briccriu.' Examples of shields with bosses are figured 
in Sir John Evans' Ancunt Bronu ImpUmenis of Great Britain^ pp. 344, 
348, and in Sir William Wilde's Catalogue of the Collection in the 
Koyal Irish Academy, 

' See sec. 62 and note. 

N 



\ 



194 THE CUCHULLIN SAGA 

Such was the intensity of the fight they made that 
the steeds of the Gaels darted away in fright and 
shyness, with fury and madness breaking their chains 
and their yokes, their ropes and their traces; and 
the women and youths and little people and camp- 
followers and non-combatants of the men of Erin, 
broke out of the camp south-westwards. 

They were practising the * edge- feat of swords ' during 
this time. Then it was that Ferdia found an unguarded 
moment upon Cuchullin, and he gave him a stroke of 
the straight-edged sword, and buried it in his body, so 
that his blood fell into his girdle, and the ford was 
reddened with his gore. 

Cuchullin could not endure this, for Ferdia con- 
tinued his unguarded stout strokes, and his rapid 
strokes, and his tremendous heavy blows at him. 
Then Cuchullin asked Laegh, son of Riangabar, for 
the £'ae bulga} The manner of the weapon was this : 
it had to be set down the stream and cast from between 
the toes ; it made the wound of one spear in entering 
the body, but it had thirty barbs to open, and could 
not be withdrawn from the body, but must be cut 
out And when Ferdia heard the gae bulga mentioned, 
he made a stroke of the shield downwards, to protect 
the lower part of his body. Cuchullin thrust the 
unerring thorny spear off the centre of his palm, over 
the rim of the shield, and through the breast of the 
skin-protecting armour, so that its further half pro- 
truded after piercing his heart in his body. Then he 
gave a stroke of his shield upwards, to protect the 
upper part of his body, though it was 'relief after 
danger ' \i,e. it came too late]. 

^ See sec. 58 and note. 



THE TAIN b6 CUAILGNE 195 

The servant set the gae bulga down the stream, and 
Cuchullin caught it between the toes of his foot, and 
threw an unerring cast of it at Ferdia, and it passed 
through the firm deep apron of wrought-iron, and 
broke the great stone, which was as large as a mill- 
stone, into three parts, and passed through the protec- 
tions of his body into him, so that every crevice and 
every cavity of his body was filled with its barbs. 

' The end is come now, indeed,' said Ferdia, * I 
fall by that. But in truth I say, that I am sickly after 
thee ; for it did not behove thee that I should fall by 
thy hand.' And he spake these words : 

* O Hound of the beautiful feats. . . .' 

Then Cuchullin ran towards him, and clasped his 
two arms about him, and lifted him with his arms, his 
armour, and his clothes across the ford northwards, 
that the slain man might be on the north of the ford, 
and not on the west with the* men of Erin. 

Then he laid down the wounded man ; and a trance, 
a faint, and a weakness fell upon Cuchullin there as 
he saw the body of Ferdia. Laegh noticed that, and 
the men of Erin arose to come over to him. ' Arise 
now, O Cuchullin,' said Laegh, *for the men of Erin 
are coming to us, and it is not single combat they will 
give us, since Ferdia, son of Daman, son of Ddre, is 
fallen by thee.' 

' What availeth me to rise, O servant,' said he, ' after 
him that is fallen by me?' And Cuchullin began 
to lament, and to mourn for Ferdia and to utter a 
panegyric over the slain. . . . ' Great was the treachery 
and abandonment played on thee by the men of Erin, 
O Ferdia, to bring thee to combat and fight with me. 



196 THE CUCHULLIN SAGA 

For it was not easy to combat and fight with me on the 
Tdin b6 Cuailgne.' And he uttered these words : 

' O Ferdia, treachery hath defeated thee. 
Unhappy was thy fate— 
Thou to die, I to remain, — 
Grievous for ever is our lasting separation. 

When we were far away, yonder 
With Scathach, the gifted Buanand, 
We then resolved that till the end of time 
We should not be hostile one to the other. 

Dear to me was thy beautiful ruddiness, 
Dear to me thy perfect form, 
Dear to me thy clear, grey-blue eye, 
Dear to me thy wisdom and thine eloquence. 

There hath not come to the body-cutting combat, 
There hath not been angered by manly exertion. 
There hath not borne shield on the field of spears 
Thine equal, O ruddy son of Daman. 

Never until now have I met. 
Since I slew Aife's only son, 
Thy like in deeds of battle 
Never have I found, O Ferdia. 

Finnabair, daughter of Meave, 
Notwithstanding her excellent beauty 
It is putting a gad on the sand or sunbeam 
For thee to expect her, O Ferdia.' 

And he continued to gaze on Ferdia. At length 
he said: 'Well, my friend Laegh, strip Ferdia now, 
that I may see the brooch, for the sake of which he 
undertook the combat' Laegh came, and stripped 
Ferdia. He took his armour and clothes off him, and 
he saw the pin, and he began to lament and moan 
afresh for him. ... * Now, O my friend Laegh, take the 
gae bulga out of the body of Ferdia ; for I cannot afford 



THE tAiN b6 CUAILGNE 197 

to be without my weapon.* Then Laegh opened the 
body, and took out the ^o^ buiga^ and Cuchullin saw 
the weapon, bloody and red, lying by the side of the 
dead. And he spake these words : 

' O Ferdia, sorrowful is the fate . . .' 

' Good, O Cuchullin/ said the charioteer, ' let us leave 
the ford now. Too long have we been here.* • We will 
leave now, O my friend Laegh,* said the hero, "but 
every other combat and fight that ever I have made 
was to me but a game or a sport, compared to the 
combat and the fight of Ferdia.* And so he was saying, 
and he spake these words : 

' Play was each, pleasure each. 
Till Ferdia faced the beach ; 
One had been our student-life, 
One in strife of school our place, 
One our gentle teacher's grace. 
Loved o'er all and each. 

Play was each, pleasure each, 
Till Ferdia faced the beach ; 
One had been our wonted ways, 
One the praise for feat of fields ; 
Scathach gave two victor shields — 
Equal prize to each. 

Play was each, pleasure each, 
Till Ferdia faced the beach ; 
Dear that pillar of pure gold, 
Who fell cold beside the ford. 
Hosts of heroes felt his sword 
First in battle's breach. 

Play was each, pleasure each. 
Till Ferdia faced the beach ; 



198 THE CUCHULLIN SAGA 

Lion fiery, fierce, and bright. 
Wave whose might nothing withstands, 
Sweeping, with the shrinking sands. 
Horror o'er the beach. 

Play was each, pleasure each, 
Till Ferdia faced the beach ; 
Loved Ferdia, dear to me : 
I shall dree his death for aye, 
Yesterday a mountain he, — 
But a Shade to-day.'^ 



The Healing of Cuchullin 

80 — (LL. 89 a). From Ulster now came certain to 
comfort Cuchullin. Of whom were Senoll uathach. 
and Gege's two sons, Muredach and Cotreb. These 
carried him away to the burns and rivers of Con- 
aille-Muirthemne, in order that against the current of 
those streams they should bathe and wash his hurts 
and wounds and gashes. Because into those waters 
the Tuatha d6 Danann practised to throw balsamic 
plants and herbs of health for aid and relief to 
Cuchullin ; so much so that with these simples the 
rivers' surface was chequered over green. The names 
then of Cuchullin's curative rivers were as follows: 
Sais, Buais, Rithlan, Finglas, Gleoir, Glenamain, Bedhg, 
Cumung, Cuillenn, Gainemain, Drong, Delt, Dubghlas. 

Then by the men of Erin Ferdia's grave was dug, 
and all the rest of his funeral ceremony duly carried 
out.* 

^ Taken, by kind permission, from Dr. Sigerson's Bards of the Gaei 
and Gaul (T. Fisher Unwin). The repetition of the first two lines, and 
the iteration and return in the rhythm, are features of the original Irish. 

^ This sentence is wanting in LL. 



THE TAIN b6 CUAILGNE 199 

Ceiihem mac Fintatis ' hard-fightl and the Diagnosis 

of his Tvounds 

81-81. Ceithern comes in frantic wise to avenge 
Cuchullin's hurts on Meave's host After the combat 
he repairs to Cuchullin's tent to have his wounds 
attended to.^ 

84-86. As soon as he comes out of the marrow- 
bath, he rushes again into battle and is killed. Then 
came Inda his wife, daughter of Echaid sdihnide 
' yellow heel/ to lament him. 

Finntatis ' tooth-fight ' to avenge his son 

87. Finntan mac Niall niamghlonnach 'of the bril- 
liant exploits' with thirty men comes to avenge his 
son. Finntan and one son only remain alive. The 
host falls back a day's march. 

Mentis red disgrace 

88. Salcholgan's son. Menu More, with twelve men 
from the Boyne, fight with the men of Erin. Menn is 
wounded and the twelve killed. 

Reochaids bloodless fight 

89. Fatheman'*s son Reochaid with thrice fifty comes. 
Finnabair tells her mother that she loves him. The 
twelve Munster kings [chiefs of note], to each of whom 
Finnabair has been promised as sole and only wife, 

* Of the exbiUlJoo of and p cono on ccfBent on hit wounds, and of fan 
' marrow-bsuh,' m leng;tlieDcd dcscripcioo from LL. is giren in Mmu Cmsi. 
voL vL wAe 59, pp. 97-101, to which we refer oar resden. The 
MS., however, diflera from it in many respects. 



200 THE CUCHULLIN SAGA 

agree to avenge themselves upon Reochaid, and ere 
they separate, seven hundred valiant warriors fall. 

Finnabair, hearing of the slaughter, dies of shame, 
but Reochaid returns to his own land none the worse. 



IliacKs ' lump-fight ' 

90. Iliach mac Cas mac Fachtna mac Fiach mac 
Ross mac Rury abode at this time with his son's 
son, Laegaire buadach. In his own mind and with his 
people he matured a plan : to go and to set upon the 
men of Erin, to let loose his strength on them, to take 
their spoils and to have his triumph of them, and so 
to avenge Ulster's honour on them. * Whether then I 
fall or come out of it, is all one,' he said. Then his 
pair of withered and wasted old horses, that hard by 
his ddn stood on the shore, were harnessed for him ; 
his ancient chariot was made ready and they were 
tackled to it, without cushions under him at all. He 
took on him his rough shield of iron with hard rim of 
silver that encircled it. At his left side he had his 
greyish-hilted, formidably-striking sword, and into the 
chariot by his side he received his pair of rickety- 
headed blunt-rusty spears. The chariot was well 
stored with stones, with great flat flags, heaped up 
around him. He thus accoutred came to attack the 
men of Erin ; apart from his armament also he 
appeared before them stark naked. When the men 
of Erin saw him thus appointed, they vented jeers and 
mockery ; but at sight of him Meave said : * Right 
glad indeed were I to have all Ulster come equipped 
even so into the field.' 

Ddche mac M^gach happened in his way, and bade 



THE tAiN b6 CUAILGNE 20I 

him be welcome. * Who is he that greets me?' Iliach 
asked. ' Confidant and friend of Laegaire buadach am 
I : D6che mac M&gach to wit' * Dear to me is thy 
salutation then ; and for the sake of it come thou to 
me when I ply my fury on the host, to the end that 
when my vigour ebbs, when my hand shall weary at 
my weapons, thou and none other of the men of 
Erin be the one to hew off my head. For thy friend 
also, for Laegaire buadack^ preserve thou my silver 
sword.' Then with his weapons he wrought on the 
men of Erin and, when those weapons all were shivered, 
his adversaries he pounded with stones with rocks with 
the earth's tabular flags. Which in their turn being 
expended, he would seize the next one of the men of 
Erin, and betwixt his hands and fore-arms and his side 
[body] so mightily compress him that he made of him 
a ' marrow-mess,' flesh and skin and bones and all ; so 
that still the memory is green of the two marrow- 
messes: that which for the healing of Cethern mac 
Finntan Cuchullin made of Ulster's and of the men of 
Erin's kine, and that which Iliach made of the men 
of Erin's own bones ; and the third prodigy \i,e. one 
of the three leading prodigies] of the Tdin, was the 
countless number that fell in Iliach's Mump-flght': so 
called because it was with rocks and stones and flags 
that he maltreated them. When all was done, again 
D6che mac M^gach came in his way, and Iliach said 
to him : ' Draw near to me now, D6che, and take off 
my head, and keep my sword by thee for Laegaire 
buadach* D6che approached him, and with a sword- 
stroke smote off his head ; the head and his spoils he 
carried away to Ailell and to Meave, and so ' Iliach's 
lump-fight' is the title of this episode in the Tdin. 



202 THE CUCHULLIN SAGA 

91. The thrice-fifty charioteers of Ulster attack the 
men of Erin with flags and stones. 

92. Now Conall's father, Amargin, overtakes the 
host at Taillte, drives them northward, and posting 
himself on the west side of Taillte, he ' puts his left 
elbow under him/ and commences to pelt the host 
with rocks and flags and stones. He perseveres for 
three days and three nights. 

Cur6i mac Daire meanwhile advances from Munster, 
intending to attack CuchuUin, but seeing him riddled 
with wounds after his recent combat with Ferdia, he 
refrains, and, posting himself to the north of the men 
of Erin, he begins answering Amargin's fire of stones. 
Between the two combatants the men of Erin fared 
badly, for high overhead among the clouds in air the 
ponderous flags, speeding on their hostile mission, 
continually met and were shattered, falling in great 
masses upon the men of Erin. At Meave's entreaty, 
the two agree to desist, and Cur6i takes himself off to 
his own country back again. 

The host falls back a day's march to the northward, 
Amargin meanwhile holding his hand from pelting 
them. 

SualtacKs'^ warning 

93. It was Sualtach son of Becaltach mac M6raltach, 
father of Cuchullin mac Sualtach : and it had been 
told him that in fighting with Calatin, his seven-and- 
twenty sons, and Glas mac Delga his grandson, and 
again in his combat with Ferdia mac Deman, Cuchullin 
his son was being wounded sore [yet had he not gone 

' LL. has Sualtaim. The name is variously spelled Soaltainn, Soalta, 
Sualtan, etc. 



THE tAIN b6 CUAILGNE §03 

to help hira]. But now Sualtach spake thus : Ms it the 
heaven that bursts, or the sea that runs away, or the 
earth that gapes, or is this that I hear the groaning 
of my son over-matched ? '* Forthwith he came to visit 
him, and found him covered with blood, and hurts, and 
wounds. He stood over him and gave way to bemoan 
him and to lament for him ; but this CuchuUin deemed 
to be discreditable and disgraceful. For well he knew 
that, hurt and damaged as he might be, Sualtach wan 
not the man to avenge him. Sualtach*8 character in 
short was this : no hero was he, nor yet by any meanN 
a coward, but just an average good fighting-man ; and 
CuchuUin said to him: 'Good now, Sualtach, have 
done with mourning and sorrowing for me. Get thee 
away to Emania ; tell Ulster that for the future them- 
selves must come and follow up their 7*iin, seeing that 
I no more am able to defend and rescue them. Kecauiio 
from the Monday before samhain etc.,* in the gap* 
and passes of Conaille-Muirthemne I have Mtood agalndt 
the four great provinces of Erin, daily slaying a man 
at a ford \i,e. in single combat], and nightly a hundred 
warriors; while for thirty nights I had not manly 
fairplay of single combat None comes to succouri 
none to comfort me ; yet my hurts arc such that I mi^y 
not endure to have my fighting vesture touch my skin. 
They arc "fetter-hooks" that maintain n\y mafUle 
overhead ; dried sops of grass they are that stuff my 
wounds; from crown to sole of me is n^H a si/^/t on 
which a needle's point might rest tnit has s^/m^ hurt ; 
in all my body not an individual hair (Upk% y^f^pw (/ut 

' There » a faraUd yiatiage in <l*e ' mU%«r »A H^/wtU/ wU^ti ^lmiti^\lm 
o the v<jfds vidb reCrrenor t/> bit UMf^-n^m. 
* Tfaii 'cic' 'm'mih€ U'mk Ust th^ 



204 THE CUCHULLIN SAGA 

a dew of red blood garnishes its point, only excepting 
my left arm that holds my shield, and even that bears 
three times fifty wounds. All which unless I may 
avenge now presently until the world's utmost last 
end I never shall requite.' 

94. Sualtach on the Hath Macha set out to take 
the news to Ulster, and when he was come alongside 
of Emania he cried out saying: Mn Ulster men are 
slain, women carried captive, kine driven,' yet from 
Ulster he had no answer. Which being so, right up to 
Emania's rampart he pushed on, and again : ' Men are 
slain, women carried captive, kine driven,' he said, and 
still a second time found not an answer. He pene- 
trated to lee na ngiall ' the stone of hostages,' and there 
repeated the same words : * Men are slain,' etc. * Who 
are taken, and who are they that take?' asked Cathbad. 

* Ailell and Meave they are that have harried and ban- 
ished you,' Sualtach answered : * your women, your 
little boys, your cattle, and your horses they have 
carried away ; in the gaps and passes of Conaille- 
Muirthemne Cuchullin all alone delays and impedes 
Erin's four great provinces, all which till the world's 
utmost last end never shall be requited.' 'Death and 
destruction were the fitting portion of him who thus 
challenges the king/ said Cathbad. But Conachar the 
king answered : * 'Tis true for Sualtach, what he says. 

* Ay, true indeed,' all Ulster as one man assented. 

95. In high dudgeon and with most spiteful inclina- 
tion, Sualtach (because from Ulster he had not had an 
answer to his mind) turned and came away from them. 
True it is that under the rampart of Emania then the 
Hath Macha started under Sualtach, so that the rider 
came into contact with his shield, the sharp rim of 



THE TAIN b6 CUAILGNE 20S 

which shore ofT his head ; and there you have Sual- 
tach*s violent demise. To Emania the horse travelled 
back again, dragging the shield after him with the head 
upon it, and Sualtach's head uttered the same words : 
' Men are killed/ etc., as before. Then Conachar said 
these words : * The heavens are over our heads, the 
earth is under us, and the sea encompasses us round 
about ; and unless the heavens with their showers of 
stars fall to earth, unless that same earth bursts about 
our feet, and unless the azure-like, blue-surfaced sea 
submerges the universe's continental face, every cow 
and every woman of them I will restore to her own 
byre and to her own dwelling-house.' At the moment 
a certain messenger of Conachar's people, Finnchad 
mac Troiglethan by name, chanced to be beside the 
king, who thereupon bade him go rally and muster 
Ulster ; and it was so that through confusion begotten 
of his recent trance and childbed pains, Conachar 
enumerated to him their dead as well as their living, 
saying : — 

' Finnchad, arise, I send thee. . . .' ^ 

Gathering of the Men of Ulster 

96. No difficult task for Finnchad was this that 
Conachar had laid on him : Ulster in general, all so 
many of them as there were from Emania downwards 
and northwards, flocked to answer Conachar's design 
and his rising out. As for them that were from 

1 Here is a bare list of men and places to be visited, which in LL. 
extends to over one hundred items, most of them otherwise unknown to 
fame. In the modern MS. it is very much shorter, but corrupt. In both 
lists are mentioned divers whom we have seen slain by Cuchullin and 
others. This mental confusion of Conachar's is a very graphic touch. 



2o6 THE CUCHULLIN SAGA 

Emania southwards and westwards, they tarried not 
for Conachar ; rather they followed on the track of the 
great host, and held the very way taken by the Tdin. 
The first day's march which from Emania the Ultonians 
under Conachar made, was prolonged to irard cuillenn 
and there that night they halted. * Men,' said Conachar, 
* for whom here tarry we ? ' * For thine own sons/ they 
answered : * for Fiachna and for Fiacha, that are gone 
from us to fetch thy daughter Feidelm n6chruthacKs 
son Ere, son also of Cairbre king of Tara, to have him 
come with us.' The king said : * By my word, I swear 
that here I will not make delay until the men of Erin 
shall have heard that I am risen from the birthpangs 
and distress in which I lay; for of my recovery they 
have no inkling, nor even whether as yet I live at all.' 
Conachar and Celtchar, accompanied with thirty hun- 
dred fierce chariot-fighters, came on therefore, and came 
upon eight-score full-grown men belonging to Ailell's 
and to Meave's especial people, these having with them 
eight-score women-captives. This namely had been 
their proportion of the captivity of Ulster : that into 
every man's hand a woman-prize had been delivered. 
Conachar and Celtchar deprived them of their eight- 
score heads, so also rescuing the women. Hitherto dth 
irmidhe had been the name of the ford at which thus 
they encountered ; thenceforth its appellation has been 
dth fiinnCy for the reason that upon its edges both 
warrior-bands, one on the east, the other on the west, 
fought out their quarrel. 

97. To return to the men of Erin : that night they 
passed in Slane of Meath.^ Conachar and Celtchar on 

^ Sleamhain or Slane in Westiheath is not to be confused with the 
village of the same name on the river Boyne in Meath, called in Irish 
baiU SlAine. See Ann. Four Mast. a.d. 492 note. 



THE TAIN b6 CUAILGNE 207 

their side fell back to irard cuillenn again, and with the 
rest of Ulster there abode. In which same night it 
was that in his sleep Celtchar uttered a rhapsody. At 
Slane that night also it was that Cormac conloingeas 
being with the men of Erin pronounced a rhapsody. 
In the same night again at Slane with the men of 
Erin, Dubtach dael Uladh expressed a rhapsody.^ 
Then suddenly Dubtach sprang up out of his sleep and 
[as a consequence of these rhapsodies emitted by the 
three heroes as they slept] a frenzy seized and confused 
the host, to such effect that they set-to and with their 
spear-points and cutting implements made a ' weapon- 
clang ' so great, that in the heart of the encampment 
a hundred men expired with horror of the din that 
they created. At all events, what with these dreams 
and bogies and with these prognostications that were 
revealed to them, by no means was this the most 
comfortable night that the men of Erin ever had 
passed. 

Mac Roth's scouting mission 

98. Ailell complains that from the Monday preceding 
samftain until now he has harried Ulster and the 
Dalaradia and Cuailgne, carried away spoil and left 
the hills levelled behind him. He proposes to retreat 
to Magh di, where they may offer him battle if they 
will. Before going, however, he sends Mac Roth 
to scan the great broad plain of Meath and to learn 
whether Ulster comes indeed, in which case he will 
tarry for them, it being ' no good king's trick to do a 

^ In LLn these rhapsodies are given in full; in the modem MS., 
opening words only; but these are ejaculatory merely, not to be 
Englished intelligibly. 



2o8 THE CUCHULLIN SAGA 

good run away.'^ With this commission Mac Roth set 
out to observe Meath's vast expanse, nor long had 
he been at his post when he heard a noise, an uproar, 
a booming and a crackling which not to any trivial 
matter might be likened, but was as though the heaven 
fell prone upon the face of the earth ; as though the 
azure sea overflowed the solid surface ; as though the 
earth in labour were rent asunder; as though the 
forest's trees falling were dashed into each other's 
prongs and forks. Even the wild things were banished 
from their lairs, so that under them the open plain of 
Meath hardly was distinguishable. To Ailell and to 
Meave with this intelligence Mac Roth came back, and : 
* Fergus, who comes there ?* queried Ailell. ' Good now,' 
came Fergus's reply, 'the noise [etc.] that he has heard 
is the thunder and the crackling made by the men of 
Ulster as before their chariots they with their swords 
hew down the woods ; and that is what has covered the 
face of Meath with creatures put to flight' 'Again 
as I looked,' resumed Mac Roth, ' I saw a huge grey 
mist that filled the void and intervening space betwixt 
the heavens and the earth. I deemed they had been 
islands upon lochs that I perceived in the sloping 
cavities of that mist . . .' [Here follows a most diffuse 
list of phenomena observed and retailed by Mac Roth. 
As he relates each one, Fergus is asked to interpret it ; 
that hero then scrupulously recapitulates Mac Roth's 
words, and gives his own interpretation : the mists 
above are breaths of Ulster's horses ; the islands, heads 
of warriors, hoods of chariots, showing up through the 
fog aforesaid, and so on, and so* on.] 
' As for all that,' quoth Meave, ' I value it but little : 

^ He seems to quote a proverb. 



THE tAiN b6 CUAILGNE 209 

we have good fighting men and warriors that will speak 
with them.* * Alas for thy confidence/ said Fergus ; 
' neither in Ireland nor in Scotland is there a host that 
can quell Ulster when from their childpangs once they 
rise, and when once their fury kindles.' 

M(u RotKs second mission 

99. Erin's four great provinces that night pitched 
camp in Clartha, and posted sentinels to keep a good 
look-out so that Ulster should not without advertise- 
ment or warning fall on them. Then with thirty 
hundred fierce chariot-fighters Conachar and Celtchar 
came to Slane, where but a very short stay they made ; 
thence they proceeded to Ailell's and Meave's camp, 
with intent thus to anticipate the rest of Ulster in 
reddening their hands upon the men of Erin. Not 
long had Mac Roth been in observation, when straight 
out of the north-east he noted the advent of a huge 
body of horses. He returns at once to Ailell, to 
Meave, and to the chiefs of the men of Erin. The 
king questions him : ' Well, Mac Roth, and hast thou 
this day seen any man of Ulster on this army's track?' 
Mac Roth told him what he had seen. ' What may be 
the number of those horses ? ' Ailell asked. * Not less 
than thirty hundred chariots, that is to say, ten 
chariots and twenty hundreds.'^ 'Ulster's warriors 
with Conachar are those,' said Ailell, and : * What 
meanest thou, Fergus, threatening us hitherto with the 
reek and dust and panting breaths [as a while ago set 

^ The modern MS. has three hundred chariots in some places, but 
this must be incorrect. Both in the modern MS. and LL. this final 
calculation agrees. 

O 



aio THE CUCHULLIN SAGA 

forth by Mac Roth] of a huge host in the plain,^ when 
yonder mean company is all thou canst produce to give 
us battle?' 'A little too early thou complainest of 
them/ Fergus returned ; ' and soon shalt thou know 
that they number more than are there.' Hereat Meave 
proposed as follows: 'Let us then devise some plan, 
perfect yet expeditious ; for positive it is that that 
enormous man, most rudely fierce, all primed with 
hottest energy : Conachar mac Fachtna king of Ulster, 
son of all Ireland's arch-king, will assault us. Of the 
men of Erin therefore be there now made and held 
ready before him an enclosure,* open-mouthed indeed, 
but with a force of thirty hundred men prepared to 
shut it as a door behind him ; for the fellows must be 
taken and not slain, inasmuch as they are not so many 
as that with honour we may do more than to make 
captives of them.' Note now that this was ' the third 
most abundantly comical saying' that was expressed 
on the Tclin : ^ that Conachar namely must be captured 
alive, and prisoners be made of the thirty hundred of 
Ulster's gentles whom he had along with him. 

100. When Conachar's son Cormac conloingeas [who 
was with Fergus in Meave's camp] heard this, he was 
aware that unless presently he took vengeance of Meave 
for her arrogant speech, never in the future would he 
do so. With his own troop of three thousand therefore 
Cormac arose to fall on Meave and Ailell. The king 
and queen for their part, either one with thirty hundred, 

' This refers to Fergus's well-known sympathy with Ulster. 

* Lit. 'a man-pen,' 'a man-fold,' i,e, men disposed in the form of a 
pen, a fold, a corral. The whole host (except the three thousand) were 
to be so drawn up. 

* ut, one of the three most comical. 



THE tAiN b6 CUAILGNE 211 

rose too ; as also did their sons the Maines and the 
sons of Magach, each with as many. The Gailiana, 
they of Munster, and the populus of Tara rose and by 
them mediation was employed successfully, and every 
man of the disputants was induced to sit down ' in the 
vicinity of his weapons.*^ Nevertheless Meave did make 
a formidable man-fold to receive Con achar, with a body 
of three thousand to close it when he should have 
entered in. With intent to force it, Conachar made for 
the enclosure nor ever so much as looked for an open- 
ing ; so far from that, right in front of his own and of 
his men's faces he burst ' a gap of two hundred ': one of 
a hundred on his right hand, another of a hundred on 
his left Right through them all to the further side he 
went, and in their very centre wrought them dire con- 
fusion. In the result there perished of them eight 
hundred men of war; yet without blood drawn and 
without a scratch he came away from them, and so to 
Slane to rejoin Ulster. 

Mac RotKs third mission 

101. Then said Ailell : ' Good now, men, let there 
go from us one to inspect Ulster, and to learn in what 
guise they enter on this plain of Meath ; that he recite 
to us the description of their arms and gear and 
armature, of their kings and regal chiefs and champions 
and battle heroes, to listen to the which shall be to us 
a pastime.' 'Who ought to go?' asked all in general, 
and: 'Who but Mac Roth, the royal messenger?' said 
Fergus. So Mac Roth went and seated himself in 

^ i.e, they piled or stacked their arms, instead of retaining them on 
their persons or within arm*s reach. 



212 THE CUCHULLIN SAGA 

Slane of Meath ; and from early morning's first dim 
glimmering till the evening's twilight, Ulster continued 
to march in and to take position on the Hill of Slane. 
In such wise they came, that during all that time 'the 
earth was not naked under them';^ every division 
under its chief, every corps under its gentles, every 
company under its captain, while each lord and leader 
was followed by the full strength of his force, of his 
gathering and muster, and every one of them all distinct 
and apart. Thus then it was that Ulster reached and 
covered the Hill of Slane in Meath. 

Mac Roths Report 

102. Back to the spot where Meave and Ailell were, 
and the chiefest among the men of Erin, Mac Roth 
returned with the delineation of those numerous corps 
which he had seen. Then Ailell questioned him, and 
the queen joined in asking: 'Good now, Mac Roth, 
and what like were they as they came up on the Hill 
of Slane in Meath?' The messenger made answer: 
'That I know not, excepting only to this extent :'* 

(i) Reochaid mac Fatheman's Corps. * A corps there 
came upon the Hill that is in Slane of Meath, and at 

^ ue, they were serried so that all along their line of march, so long as 
it lasted, there was not a patch of ground to be seen bare of a man. 

' Here follows Mac Roth's description of the several companies of 
Ulster's host, with their leaders. We content ourselves with the briefest 
outline. In Appendix iii. will be found the list of the chiefs as they 
appeared successively, each with his battalion, before the eyes of Mac 
Roth. It will be seen that the modern recension contains several passages 
not in the Book of Leinster. In Man. Cust.^ vol. iii. pp. 91-97, portions 
of these descriptive passages will be found translated from the Book of 
Leinster, and in vol. ii. Lect. xv. pp. 315-318, an account is given of the 
warriors' weapons. 



THE tAiN b6 CUAILGNE 213 

their head was one than whom not many warriors are 
handsomer or more comely. . . .' 

Ailell asked: 'Fergus, who is that?' and Fergus 
answered : ' I know well ; he is one that is half the 
battle, Reochaid mac Fatheman from Righdown in 
the North. . . .' 

(ii) Fergus mac Leide*s Corps. 'Another corps there 
came [etc.], and at their head a formidable warrior, 
thick- thighed, and indeed in every limb of him as it 
were grosser than a whole man. Black hair he had, 
a ruddy face, most haughty eyes that flashed. . . .' 
Ailell asked : * Fergus, who is he ? ' ' We know well ; 
that is mine own tried comrade and con-disciple, Fergus 
mac Leide, from Rilinn in the North.* 

(iii) Conachar's Corps. 'Another corps there came 
upon the hill that is in Slane of Meath,' Mac Roth 
went on, ' the which, to look at them, I judged to be 
of thirty hundred. Forthwith they all put off their 
raiment of defence and, to make their lord a seat, dug 
and threw up a sodded mound on which then, upon the 
highest pinnacle of the hill, he, surrounded by his 
sitting host, sat to wait until the rest should have 
arrived. Accordingly, as each leader did come up, he 
with his people likewise would sit down.' 

'Fergus,* said Ailell, 'who is he?* 'Yonder hero, 
that on the topmost summit of the hill has so enthroned 
himself, is Conachar son of Fachtna fathach^ arch-king 
of Ulster, and son of all Ireland's monarch.' 

(iv) Cumscraid menn's Corps. ' Another corps there 
came [etc.],* pursued Mac Roth, ' in number less than 
thirty hundred. . . . This warrior seated himself on 
the left hand of him who had preceded him on the 
hill, and hard by himself his people too sat down. 



214 THE CUCHULLIN SAGA 

Which thing although we say, yet actually sit they did 
not ; much rather had they their knees on the ground 
and their shields' rims to their chins, because they 
deemed it all too long till they should be let go at us. 
Moreover, I could distinguish that a painful stutter 
afflicted the tall fierce leader of this band.' 

* Fergus/ said Ailell, 'who is he? ' 'Conachar's son 
Cumscraidh menn Macha 'Macha's stutterer/ accom- 
panied with Ulster's sons of chiefs and nobles. . . .' 

(v) Sencha's Corps. He, though ordinarily the fore- 
most to pacify the men of Erin, on this occasion uses 
his oratory to stir up the host of Ulster to deeds of 
valour. 

(vi) Celtchar's Corps from dtin dd lethglas. 

(vii) Amargin's Corps. 

(viii) Eoghan mac Durthacht's Corps : not less than 
thirty hundred. 

(ix) Laegaire buadachs Corps. * Another corps there 
came [etc.], and in impetuous style it was they 
gained the hill. Heavy the horror and great the 
terror that they brought with them [i>. their advance 
inspired these feelings]. Their raiment streamed out 
behind them. In their van was a great-headed warrior: 
horrific, ravening, covered with sparse and clear-grey 
hair, his head adorned with two big yellow eyes.' 

* Fergus/ said Ailell, ' who is that ? ' ' That I know 
well ; neither battle nor single foe may withstand him 
that comes there : Laegaire buadach^ son of Iliach, out 
of Imal in the north.' 

(x) Munremar's Corps. ' Another corps there came 
[etc.], at the head of which strode a thick-necked, 
brawny warrior, crop-haired, with scarred visage 
crimsoned with recent wounds, with blue and blazing 



THE tAiN b6 CUAILGNeA ai5 

eye; while upwards projected over him a spear 
diversely shaded and tinted with blood.' 

(xi) Conna mac Morna's Corps. 

(xii) Feidlimid mac Chilairchetail's Corps. 

(xiii) Fersidach ^nn/ecAffMcA*s Corps. 

(xiv) Corps of Ros, Daire^ and Imchill, sons of 
Fiacha : keepers of the Brown Bull of Cuailgne. 

(xv) Corps of Fiacha and Fiachna, two young sons 
of Conachar. 

(xvi) Errge echbiCs Corps. 

(xvii) Menn mac Salcholgan's Corps. 

(xviii) Fergna mac Finnchonna's Corps. 

(xix) Furbaide^r^^««*j Corps. 

(xx) Corps of Ulster's poets, accompanying Fer- 
cheirtne the Ollave, Athairne the Poet-in-chief, and 
Ailell mac Cairbre whom men call miltenga 'honey- 
tongue.' ^ 

(xxi) Corps of Cathbad and his two sons. As they 
move along they raise their eyes to heaven and watch 
the clouds ; the whole company follow their example, 
and against the elements hurl their spells, setting them 
a-warring with each other, so that downwards on the 
men of Erin they discharge shower-clouds of fire. 
These are Ulster's wizards, by their incantations striv- 
ing to forecast the issue of the final decisive battle of 
Gflirech and Ilg&irech now about to take place. 

(xxii) Corps of Finghin the leech. This is an ex- 
ceeding numerous corps, bright-faced, and arrayed in 
special garb ; every man at his waist carries ^fearbolg^ 
used by them as receptacles of their medicaments. So 

^ The Corps numbered xx.-xxvi. are not mentioned'in LL. 
' i,e, 'a man-bag,' the receptacle for chess-men, meaning here a bag 
similar in size and make. 



ai6 THE CUCHULLIN SAGA 

great is Finghin's skill, that by merely seeing the 
smoke of the house in which the patient lies, he can 
diagnose his sickness, and by simply hearing what a 
wound is, can heal it. 

(xxiii) Corps of Glas and Menn, sons of Uitechar. 

(xxiv) Triscathal's Corps. This hero is accompanied 
by a man of enormous strength and gloomy counten- 
ance. Seven chains he has around his neck, and to the 
end of each are bound seven men. These then he 
drags along in such fashion that their noses bang 
against the ground ; they in their turn reviling him 
until he gives them respite. Triscathal himself is no 
less powerful, and can fling a * strength-stone ' ^ into the 
air as high as flight of lark or swallow. 

(xxv) Corps of Conachar's sons Glas, Maine, and 
Conaing. 

(xxvi) Corps of Conall cernach son of A margin. 
Their leader is an active handsome young man': one 
that has light-yellow hair, above and all over whose 
head though a sack of acorns had been shot, yet never 
a one of them would have reached the ground through 
the curled twisted volume of his locks. Bluer than 
^«f Aa-flower * is his one eye ; blacker than beetle's 
back the other. His beard matches his hair and is 
bifurcated. . . .' 

(xxvii) Ere mac Cairpre's Corps.' In their midst, in 
crimson mantle, is a little ruddy freckled boy with 
golden brooch on breast and, next his skin, a shirt of 

^ Le, one used for competitive tests of strength. 

' Some blue flower to which eyes frequently are compared. Whether 
blue-bell or hyacinth or some variety of lavender is uncertain. 

' Erc*s father, here mentioned by Fergus, had been killed by CuchuUin 
at the battle of Ros na righ. Some accounts make Ere the slayer of 
CuchuUin. 



THE tAIN b6 CUAILGNE 217 

regal satin, broidered with red gold. He has a white 
shield rimmed and otherwise lavishly bedecked with 
the same red gold ; at his waist, a little golden-hilted 
sword ; upright he holds a light sharp spear. 

Fergus takes these to be the men of Tara with Ere mac 
Cairpre niafer^ whose mother is Conachar's daughter 
Feidelm, and who without his father's leave must now 
be come to help the king his grandfather. 'Should 
they indeed be those for whom I take them/ continues 
Fergus, 'then shall ye find them to be a sea that 
drowns ; for by that company and the little boy that 
is among them, this impending battle shall be won 
against you.' 

(xxviii) Here occurs a very long, exceedingly florid, 
and redundant passage (not in LL.), describing three I 
corps accompanied by three ' battle-wheels ' and three! 
castles (evidently of the old classical military movable \ 
type) ; which wheels, when launched at the masses of 
the enemy, produce a terrific effect. Each wheel has 
four openings, and as they career along, a reckless gang 
of the opposing party [this so far takes place among 
themselves] snatch up twelve huge iron bars with one 
forked end, jump into the wheels and, by digging their 
forks into the ground (four to each wheel), arrest and 
as it were anchor them. Vast numbers of horses too 
these people have. Their pugnacity is such that when 
they have a battle in prospect they cannot in the mean- 
time possess their souls in peace ; in default of an 
enemy therefore they turn to and tackle one another. 

Mac Roth professes great amazement at the utterly 
unwonted form, attire, and mode of warfare of this 
party, over whom three wonderful bird-flocks fly ; 
while round about the wheels three red-mouthed scall- 



2i8 THE CUCHULLIN SAGA 

crows circle, uttering forecasts of the coming battle. 
Fergus remembers that he has seen such things before 
\\ when, in company with the king of Spain, he invaded 
f^y Africa and gave battle to the Carthaginians. He has 
also heard from Lebarcham that the men of Ulster had 
brought back the wonderful wheels from Germany.^ 

(xxix) CuchuUin's corps from Muirthemne. This 
final corps, in spite of their brilliant array, are sad and 
downcast all : clamorous grief has invaded them ; and 
their ranks are as orphans in the absence of their 
aggressive natural champion, CuchuUin. Fergus bursts 
forth into praise of their courage and exploits. ' Happy 
they that shall have their help ; woe to them whom 
they shall oppose ! They of themselves are sufficient 
to encounter with the men of Erin, and in this coming 
morning's battle to fight around and for their chief.' 
There, then, you have the corps sent by Conachar and 
Ulster to contend in the Raid for the kine of Cuailgne. 

103. Here Mac Roth is aware of a great uproar 
proceeding from some point external to the battalion. 
It is Cuchullin who, making violent effort to rise from 
his bed of convalescence, desires to rejoin his battalion 
and take part in the final conflict. With help of hooks 
and clasps and ropes he is forcibly constrained and 
on his bed of healing supine laid. 

104. Two female lampooners from the camp of the 
men of Erin stand over Cuchullin and in hypocrisy 
weep over him, telling him that Ulster will be routed, 
Conachar slain, and that Fergus will perish in the 
mfiMe. 

^ This passage, full of omissions and distortions, is a late interpolation. 
It occurs only in the modern MS. and plainly was too much for the 
illiterate modem scribe. 



THE tAiN b6 CUAILGNE 219 

105. The Morrigu utters a plaint between the two 
hosts : ' ravens shall pick the necks of men . • • 
etc.* 

106. Cuchullin charges Laegh to keep him well- 
informed of the events of the day. Laegh reports that 
already he sees a little herd emerge from yon western 
camp and come forth on the plain [i,e, the Brown Bull 
and his following]. After them come a band of lads 
endeavouring to stay and restrain them. Out of the 
eastern camp [Ulster's] he sees another company of 
lads coming to oppose them. ' True indeed/ said 
Cuchullin : ' an occasion of great battle is that little 
herd upon the plain, for sake of which the young men 
from the west and from the east shall meet in fray.' 
A skirmish ensues between them. 

Cuchullin now bids Laegh devote himself to stirring 
up Ulster to battle. Thereupon Laegh set himself to 
arouse Ulster, and he pronounced these words: 'Let 
Macha's kings arise, those doers of great exploits . . .'^ 

Battle of Gdirech and Ilgdirech 

[Of this great final battle of the Tdin, in which the whole collected 
forces of Ulster were engaged in conflict with the men of Erin, 
we can give only a brief outline.] 

107. In response to the call of Laegh and of 
Cuchullin, all Ulster springs to arms ; so great is the 
haste that the warriors grasp their weapons, but do not 
otherwise array themselves. Those whose tent-doors 
face eastward force a westward passage through their 
tents, not pausing to make the circuit. 

^ Thus cut short in the MS. LL. contains a few more phrases of the 
rhapsody, as also of that of the Morrigu on preceding page. 



220 THE CUCHULLIN SAGA 

108. Conachar commands Sencha to restrain Ulster 
from warfare until the * lucky moment * for them be 
come, i,e, until the sun be full risen and flood with its 
light the glens and hills of all Ireland. Then Sencha 
stirs them up with uttering of these words, *Let 
Macha's kings arise . . .' 

109. Laegh sees the men of Erin prepare themselves 
hurriedly for battle and fall to hew down and to fell the 
men of Ulster. 

110. The nine chariot-fighters of Norway's warriors 
and Meave's * trios ' of the men of Erin are enumerated. 

111. The queen incites Fergus to bestir himself 
against her adversaries. Fergus replies that had he 
once again his own inherited sword, the caladcholg^ the 
sword of Lfiide, he would obey her behest. 

112. Ailell commands his charioteer to bring the 
sword of Fergus, which at Ailell's request for a twelve- 
month he has guarded. Fergus greets his sword. 
Meave requires of Fergus that he shall spare none 
* except it be some very dear friend.* 

113. Fergus Ailell and Meave enter the battle. 
Thrice is Ulster routed northwards before them ; but 
the Cual gae^ *a fagot of spears and swords' meeting 
the men of Erin, the rout is reversed and the latter are 
driven back to their former positions. 

114. Conachar, hearing of the rout of his people, 
leaves in charge of the household of the Red Hall the 
post held by him) and goes down to discover who has 
forced Ulster to flight. 

^ The CwU gae is mentioned in the * Siege of Howth,' and also in the 
section of the ' battle-wheels,' in the muster of the Ulstermen on the Hill 
of Slane. It may have been a sort of large chevatix de Jrise, mounted 
perhaps with a wheel at either end of the spar in which the weapons would 
be set, and movable. 



THE tAIN b6 CUAILGNE 221 

115. Fergus encounters Conachar, and strikes three 
defiant strokes on Conachar's shield the Schdin. The 
shield cries aloud and the three arch-waves of Erin 
give response, and all the bucklers of Ulster scream. 
Fergus demands who it is that opposes his shield to 
him, and the Ultonians in an insulting speech cry out 
that it is Conachar. 

116. Fergus thereupon takes in both his hands the 
caladcholg^ swings it backwards until the point touches 
the earth, and is about to strike three ' viciqus^strpkes ' 
for his honour's sake, when Conachar s son Cormac 
seizes him in his arms and prays him to deliver them 
instead upon three hillocks that stand behind the host 
Fergus consents, and the king falls back. Overhead / ^ 
of the host then delicately Fergus turns his hand,) 
and from the three hillocks in question shears their 
heads ; and there they still are for all the men of Erin 
to behold, being 'Meath's three bare ones' or, 'the 
topless three of Meath.* As for that sword of Fergus's 
which was LSide's sword out of j/V/i^-land, this was the 
manner of it : when he was fain to strike with it, it 
equalled in size the rainbow of the air. ^ 

117. Cuchullin, hearing the cry of Conachar's shield, 
demands who dares strike it and he still living. He 
learns that it is Fergus who has made the shield resound, 
and that the hosts have advanced as far as G&irech. 
' My word I pledge,' he cries, * that by the time I catch 
them they shall not have reached Ilgdirech.' Then 
he puts forth a mighty effort, and bursts the bonds 
that restrain him, scattering them to the farthest 
borders of Ulster and Connacht, and ejecting the dry 

^ O'Curry, Man. Cust,^ vol. ii. p. 320. This stroke was reckoned one 
of the three best cuts of Erio, Sihfa Gadelua^ vol. ii. p. 345. 



222 THE CUCHULLIN SAGA 

wisps from his wounds to the firmament's ethereal 
vault.^ 

118. Of his armament he finds remaining only frag- 
ments of his chariot, a handsbreadth of the spindles 
clinging to the wheels, and a fist's-length of the cret} 
This ruin he picks up, and setting his face for Fergus 
mac R6ich he makes his way through the press of 
Erin's host, calling on him to turn. Fergus demands 
who calls on him with such big words, and is reminded 
by Cuchullin of his engagement to fly before him in this 
battle, even as he (Cuchullin) had pretended to fly 
before him when Fergus had no sword. Fergus con- 
sents, seeing the wounds of Cuchullin, and falls back 
three full warrior-paces, then swinging right round he 
is followed by the men of Erin who, breaking their 
ranks, turn as one man and in rout stream west- 
ward over the hill. The host continues to flee from 
noon to twilight, being pressed behind by Cuchullin 
and his men. 

119. Meave then takes it on herself to bring up the 
rear and to cover the retreat of her whole host ; but the 
Brown Bull of Cuailgne, with his fifty heifers and eight 
of her own messengers, she by a circuitous way sends 
off to Cruachan ; to the end that whoso might, or might 
not win thither, the Brown Bull at all events (even as 
she had promised) should do the distance. 

120. The host recross the Shannon at Athmore, 
' great ford * (now Athlone). 

121. Cuchullin takes his sword the cruaidin cadat- 

^ A note [not in LL.] is here added by the copyist to say that it must 
have been the 'powerful friends' of Cuchullin, ue, the JiV/^-folk, who 
transported these objects for illustration and blazoning of the story. 

' />., the shell or bottom of the chariot's body. 



THE tAiN b6 CUAILGNE 223 

chenn^ from Laegh, and strikes off the heads of three 
rocks for an affront and insult to Connacht, in order 
that so often as ' Meath's three bare ones ' should be 
mentioned, westward yonder * Athlone's three bare ones* 
abidingly should give the answer.* 

122. Fergus falls to contemplate the host as it re- 
crosses the ford. * Verily and indeed/ he exclaims, 'the 
upshot of this day, resulting as it does from following 
a woman's lead, is orthodox completely. To-day this 
host is cleared and swept away ; and even as, without 
choice of path or forming of design, a brood mare pre- 
ceding her foals wanders in a land unknown, such is 
this army's plight to-day.* 

123. CuchuUin turns and seeks the place where arc 
Conachar and his nobles ; he finds him lamenting for 
the woes undergone by Cuchullin in warding the pro- 
vince : 

' How goes it, O Cu of Cuailgne . . .' 

124. Here again we proceed to chronicle Meave*s 
doings. 

She had the men of Erin mustered to Cruachan, nor 
suffered the host to disperse before they should see the 
battle of the Bulls, and what kind of parting they 
would have; because, as already stated, during the 
fighting of the battle the Brown Bull accompanied with 
fifty heifers had been brought to Cruachan. When 
therefore the Brown Bull first saw the beautiful but 

^ ue, the 'Little Hard'; 'little' being used as a term of endearment, 
not in regard to size. This inherited sword of Cuchullin (not to be con- 
fused with the Gac bulga) is fuUy described in a tract called ' Cormac's 
Adventure in the Land of Promise,' ed. Whitley Stokes, Irische Texte^ 
dritte serie, I heft 

' See ant€t sec. 116, 



224 THE CUCHULLIN SAGA 

trackless land that lay before him, loudly he emitted 
three hoarse bellowings ; whereas by reason of the 
White-horned of Aei not a male of all that country's 
cattle as comprised between the four fords of Aei (as 
dth Moghay dth slisen^ dth coltnay dth merchati) durst in 
the way of bellowing utter sound louder than a 
gnuasach} Therefore rabidly, head high in air, the 
White-horned hastened in the direction of the Brown 
Bull's roar. 

126. A question now arises as to who shall be 
deputed to witness the battle of the Bulls. It is 
decided that Briccriu, son of Cairpre [*son of Garbadh,' 
LL.], shall go. 

126. Briccriu takes up his position in a gap whence 
to perfection he can view the beasts. The bulls sight 
each other. They, as it were, dig down for courage, 
and over their withers and their shoulders throw 
up the earth ; as though they had been globes of wild- 
fire, their eyes in their heads glow red ; like a smith's 
bellows in the smithy their nostrils are distended, 
and their breaths speed like sparkle-showers of ruddy- 
rushing fire. Wickedly they butt together with dull 
resonance, and fall to bore and hole, to rend and crush, 
each one his fellow. 

127. In their headlong course Briccriu is caught by 
the bull's hoofs, and thrust down a man's length 
into the earth. That was the manner of Briccriu 
mac Cairpre's violent and tragic death. Then Cormac 
conloingeas laid hold of a spear's shaft that completely 
filled his grip, and from ear to tail of the Brown Bull 
laid on three mighty strokes, saying * May we not 

^ A suppressed sound, almost meditative in its character, sometimes 
emitted by horned cattle. 



THE tAIN b6 CUAILGNE tts 

long possess, nor ever plume oorsdves upon tiiis 
precioos prize of ours diat cannot dispose of a mere 
calf of his own age ! ' Which when the Brown Bull 
heard (for he had human understanding) a paroxjrsm of 
exceeding fury infected him ; he turned upon the White- 
homed, and for a great while the two pushed and gored 
each other. So long as day lasted for the men of EIrin 
they persisted to contemplate the battle of the bulls ; 
when night came, all that they could do was to listen 
to their sound and noise. In that same night the bulls 
traversed the greater part of all Ireland : everywhere in 
Erin where there is a cUdh na dtarbh ' the turning of 
the bulls/ or a btma na dtarbh 'the bull's gap' etc, 
'tis from the Brown Bull and the White-horned those 
places have their appellation. 

128. On the morrow the Brown Bull is seen coming 
over Cruachan from the westward, with the White- 
homed in a mangled mass sticking on and about his 
horns. The seven Maines arise with intent to kill the 
Brown Bull in revenge for his violence to the Connacht 
bull. 'Whither go those fellows?' shouted Fergus, 
and the general answer was : ' They go to kill the Brown 
Bull of Cuailgne.' 'Then my word I pledge to it,' 
Fergus threatened, 'that unless with his spoils and 
fruits of his victory intact ye license the Brown Bull to 
pass you by in peace and to regain his own country, 
all that has been done to the [vanquished] bull shall be 
but a little thing in comparison with what I will do 
now.' Thrice now the Donn roared forth the primest 
bellowing that his voice could furnish, so celebrating 
and glorying in his triumph. As for the men of Erin, 
dread of Fergus restrained them that they should not 
meddle with him. 

P 



326 THE CUCHULLIN SAGA 

129. From westward of Cruachan, therefore, the 
Brown Bull of Cuailgne pursued his way, and .there 
he left a cruach ' conical heap ' of the Finnbennach's ae 
Miver'; hence the name cruachan^ (or crttacha) aeiy 
* heap (or heaps) of liver.' ... On he went again until 
he met Shannon's river, and was on the brink that 
borders dth mdr^ * great ford ' ; a second time he drank, 
nor, while his drinking lasted, permitted one drop of 
all the flood to run down past him. This done, he 
raised his head, and from him fell the Finnbennach's 
either loin ; whence dth luain^ ' loin's ford ' (Athlone). 
Onward still and into the land of Meath, to a place 
where he let fall the Finnbennach's [remaining] 
liver . • . and the well-versed in questions of the kind 
aver, that from the trom ' liver,' of the White-horned, 
here fallen from the Donn of Cuailgne, we have the 
term dth truim * ford of liver ' (Trim, Co. Meath.) 

130, The Brown Bull kept going, and so attained 
to the summit of sliabh Bregh^ from which point, as he 
looked abroad, he saw benna Cuailgne *the hills of 
Cuailgne ' ; then, at sight of his own borders, and with 
the view of his own country, a great spirit rose within 
him. Northwards now he turned and entered into the 
land of Cuailgne, the madness of his frenzy being so 
great that in his way there came none such but 
perished by him. One gathering of people,* indeed, 
that chanced before him made shift to evade him ; for 

^ For another explanation of the name Cruachan, see Silva Gadelua^ 
vol. ii., Extracts xxii. vi. vii. p. 539. 

' In the Book of Leinster these are ' women and boys and little folk 
that made lamenting for the Brown Bull of Cuailgne.' In spite of this 
token of affection ' the Donn turned upon the women [etc ] and executed 
a great slaughter of them.' The LL. account of these concluding scenes 
with the Donn differs considerably from ours and is less diffuse. 



THE tAIN bo CUAILGNE 227 

when [in good time] they had noted the Donn's rude 
approach, they cried out, 'A sudden-charging bull 
comes at us T whence from that time to this the 
expression ttiltarbh^ 'sudden-charging bull/ is in vogue. 
Finally the Brown Bull of Cuailgne came up to them ; ^ 
he turned his back to a hillock, and made his bellowing 
to resound ; his heart in his body was rent by a 
' blood-burst,' and in the form of ' black mountains of 
dark-red gore,' he vomited it up through his mouth. 
There then and so far you have the proceedings 
of the Brown Bull of Cuailgne, and the 
Driving of the Tdin * by Meave, daughter of 
Eochaid and Ailell More mac Magach, and 
[the disputing of it by] the Ultonians. 

[In LL. the following note is added in the hand of the scribe, 
Finn mac Gorman, Bishop of Kildare, but not as emanating from 
him:.* A blessing on all such as conscientiously shall recite 
the Tdin as it stands here, and shall not give it any other form.'] 

* To whom ? The narrative must here be defective. 

* Here Tdin has its natural sense of 'a herd,' ue, the Donn and his 
company of heifers. 



THE INSTRUCTION OF CUCHULLIN 

TO A PRINCE 



These precepts, delivered by Cuchullin when on his sickbed to Lugaid 
reoderg or riabh ndtrg < of the Red Stripes,' on the occasion of the election 
of that prince to the throne of Tara, give us not only an interesting 
insight into the manner in which a supreme monarch was chosen in pagan 
times, but a conception of the high moral qualities that were expected from 
the chief ruler of Erin. Many of the precepts here instilled by Cuchullin 
are shown by the testimony of the Brehon Laws to have been rules legally 
incumbent upon the chieftains. The 'Instruction of Cuchullin' forms 
a detached episode in the romance entitled the 'Sickbed of Cuchullin.' 
It has been preserved only in a single manuscript, the Leabhar na 
h Uidhre or Book of the Dun Cow. It has been translated by O'Curry in 
Atlantis^ vol. i. pp. 362-392, and vol. ii. pp. 98-124, and again by Mr. 
Brian O'Looney in Facsimiles of National MS. of Irelatid, edited by Mr. 
Gilbert, part i., plates xxxvii., xxxviii., and part ii. appendix iv. These 
two translations are almost identical, but they differ materially from a 
French translation more recently made by M. D'Arbois de Jubainville, and 
published by him in VEpopie celtiqut en Irlande^ pp. 186-191. I have 
followed the translation of O'Curry, but have adopted a few phrases from 
the French version where Mr. 0*Curry*s translation is obscure. These 
variations are shown by the use of square brackets. 



230 



THE INSTRUCTION OF CUCHULLIN 

TO A PRINCE 

A MEETING of the four great provinces of Erin was 
held at this time, to seek out a person on whom should 
be bestowed the sovereignty of Erin ; because it was 
deemed an evil that the Hill of Supremacy and Lord- 
ship of Erin, Tara namely, should be without the rule 
of a king ; moreover, they deemed it an evil that the 
tribes should be without a king's government to judge 
their houses. For a period of seven years the men of 
Erin had been without the government of a king over 
them ; that is, from the death of Conaire at Bruidhen 
da Derga to the time of this great meeting of the four 
provinces of Erin in the court of [Ere, son of] Cairbre 
niafer at Tara of the Kings.^ 

Now these were the princes that were gathered to 
that meeting: Meave and Ailell, Cur6i, Tighernach 
tetbannach son of Luchta, and Finn Mac Rossa. These 
would not admit the Ultonians to their council in the 
election of a king, because they were of one accord 
opposed to Ulster. 

A bull-feast was prepared by them, that by its 

^ Conaire mdr, monarch of Erin, was slain at the destruction of Bruid- 
hen da Derga, A.'M. 5160. 

tSl 



232 THE INSTRUCTION OF 

means they might discover on whom the sovereignty 
should be bestowed. 

This was the manner in which the bull-feast was 
prepared. A white bull was killed, and one man ate his 
sufficiency of the flesh and of the broth ; and he slept 
after having partaken of that meal, and a charm of truth 
was pronounced upon him by four druids. Then in a 
dream was shown to him the form of the man who 
should be made king, and his appearance and manner, 
with the sort of work that he was engaged in. Out of 
his sleep the man uttered a cry and he described to the 
kings the thing he saw, namely, a young man strong and 
noble, with two red streaks around him, and he sitting 
over the pillow of a man in a decline in Emain Macha. 

Then was a message sent with this description to 
Emain Macha. Now the men of Ulster were at that 
time gathered round Conachar in Emania, where Cu- 
chullin lay upon his bed of sickness. The messenger 
told his story to the king and to the nobles of Ulster 
also. Then said Conachar, ' There is with us a free and 
nobly descended youth of that description, namely 
Lugaid reoderg^ the son of the Three Fair Twins : the 
pupil of Cuchullin ; over whose pillow he sits alone 
within, solacing his tutor, that is Cuchullin, who is in 
his bed of decline. 

Suddenly Cuchullin arose and began to instruct his 
pupil. These are his words : 



r, 



The Instruction of Cuchullin 

'[Stir not up sharp and ignoble contests.] Be not 
fl'ghty, inaccessible, haughty. Be not intractable. 



CUCHULLIN TO A PRINCE 233 

^roud, precipitate, passionate. Be not bent down by 
the intoxication of much wealth. 

' Be not like a flea who fouls the ale in the house of a 
provincial king.^ [Make not long sojourn on the frontiers 
of strangers.] Do not visit obscure persons and those 
without power. Let not prescription close on illegal 
possession. Let witnesses be examined as to who is 
rightful heir of the land. Let the historians combine 
to act uprightly before you. Let . the lands of the 
brethren, and their increase, be ascertained in their 
lifetime. [Let the genealogical trees be added to as 
children are born. Let the living be called to their 
possessions] ; on the security of their oaths let the 
habitations of their ancestors be revived. Let the heir 
be established in his lawful patrimony. Let strangers 
be driven out by force of arms. 

* Speak not haughtily. Discourse not noisily. Mock 
not, insult not, deride not the old. Think not ill of 
any. Make no demands that cannot be met. [Grant 
nothing, refuse nothing, lend nothing without good 
cause.] Receive submissively the instructions of the 
wise. Be mindful of the admonitions of the old. 
Follow the decrees of your fathers. 

* Be not cold-hearted to friends, but against your foes 
be vigorous. Avoid dishonourable disputes in your 

I many contests. Be not a tattler and abuser. Waste 
1 not, hoard not, alienate not Submit to reproof for 
1 unbecoming deeds. Do not sacrifice justice to the 
1 passions of men. [Lay not hands on the possessions 
lof others, lest you repent it] Compete not, that 
I you may not excite jealousy; be not lazy, lest you 
j become weakened ; be not importunate, lest you be- 

^ ^ i.e, he is to avoid intemperance at the feasts of the provincial kings. 



234 THE CUCHULLIN SAGA 

come contemptible. Do you consent to follow these 

counsels, my son ? * 

Then Lugaid answered Cuchullin in these words : 
[* These precepts without exception are worthy to be 

observed. All men will see that none of them shall be 

neglected. They shall be executed, if it be possible.'] 
Lugaid then repaired to Tara with the messengers. 

He was proclaimed king. That night he slept at Tara, 

after which all the assembly returned to their own 

homes. 



THE GREAT DEFEAT ON THE 

PLAIN OF MUIRTHEMNE BEFORE 

CUCHULLIN'S DEATH 



This it part of a fine modern recension^ which contains, besides the 
' Battle of Muirthemne * from which our extracts are taken, the * Death of 
Cuchullin' the ' Red Vengeance' of Conall cemach for CuchuUin's death, 
the 'Lay of the Heads,' and 'Emer's Death.' The tale opens with a 
mention of the victories won by Cuchullin at Finnchora and Rossnaree, 
at G&irech and Ilg&irech, with an enumeration of the heroes slaughtered 
by him. The best of which deeds was the destruction of Calatin and hb 
twenty-seven children (T.B.C. sec. 78). Shortly after the death of her 
husband, however, Calatin's wife gave birth to three sons and three 
daughters at one time. This monstrous brood of ill-shapen children 
Meave rears during seven years, and afterwards sends through the wide 
world to learn magical arts by which to destroy Cuchullin. They visit 
Alba and Babylon, and study under all wizards of note from the rise 
to the set of sun. Phially they attain to ' Hell's fearful realm.' There 
Vulcan forges for them three swords, three knives, and three spears, more 
cruel and venomous than ever had been forged before. By them should fall 
three kings, as is related in the ' Death of Cuchullin,' namely : Cuchullin, 
king of heroes ; Laegh, king of charioteers, and the king of steeds, the 
Grey of Macha, CuchuUin's chariot horse. On their return, Meave stirs 
up Lugaid son of Cur5i mac Daire king of North Munster and Ere King 
of Tara, with the king of Leinster and others, whose fathers had been 
slain by Cuchullin, to revenge themselves on him. They await the 
period during which the ' curse * lay upon Ulster's warriors, incapacitating 
them for fight. The king of Ulster, the Magicians and Emer exert all ' 
their arts to hold back Cuchullin from the conflict, in which they know 
that he is foredoomed to fall, but the deadly machinations of the Clan 
Calatin, who create before his imagination hosts and armed battalions 
out of grass-stems and pufi'-balls, drive him to frenzy. For two days his 
friends have succeeded in holding him back. Our extract opens on the 
third day. 

1 The MS. U marked 1719, Brit. Mus., Egerton 139, fo. !., written In the 17th century. 
See M. D'Arbois' Esstu d*un Cataiogut tU la littirature ipiqut dt VIrlamU, pp. 47-49. 



SM 



XI 

THE GREAT DEFEAT ON THE PLAIN OF 
MUIRTHEMNE BEFORE CUCHULLIN'S 

DEATH 



As regards Conachar : on the morrow's morn Cathbad 
and <jenann of the bright cheek, with the other 
magicians, were brought before him ; Forgall Monach's 
daughter Emer, as well, and Celtchar mac Uitechair's 
daughter Niamh, and all the womankind and woman- 
folk. Of whom Conachar sought to know what ward 
that day they would keep over Cuchullin. * We know 
not,' answered all. Conachar said, ' I know : take him 
this day into Glenn na mbodhar^ (i,e, the Glen of the 
Deaf, so called for the reason that were all Erin's men 
round about it and loudly uttering their cries of war, 
yet might none in that glen hear either shout or halloo). 
* Thither, then, to take Cuchullin is your duty ; there 
let him this day be well and prudently and cunningly 
and craftily kept by you until the spell be spent, and 
to his succour Conall come out of Pictland.* ^ * Monarch,' 
said Niamh, 'albeit for the fair day's length we inter- 
ceded with him and besought him, yet not for me nor 

^ Conall cenuuh is represented as a great wanderer. He was often 
absent at critical moments. See Battle of Ros na righy Todd Lecture 
Series, R.I. A., vol. iv. p. ii. 

287 



238 GREAT DEFEAT ON MUIRTHEMNE 

for the women all yielded he yesterday to enter that 
same glen. Let Cathbad go to him ; and Genann ; the 
poets and the women and thyself/ with Emer, lead 
him into that glen. There make for him festival and 
pleasure, with diverse artifice distracting him ; so shall 
he not to his great perturbation hear Calatin's children 
with their shouts and cries provocative.' *I indee d 
w ill not go with him/ said Emer; 'rather te^ Ni^y ph 
with our blessing go^ for s he it is wh^omjeoj-pfiisf^ no*^^ 

irks him.* This now being so resolved among them, 

together come women and maids, wise men and poets, 
reciters and all various professors that were in the fort, 
and into the house where CuchuUin was they entered. 
Cathbad also, with Conachar's harper and foster-brother, 
Cobhtach of the sweet strains, making melody and 
music ; . Ferchertne, too, being on the couch beside 
Cuchullin, guarding and beguiling him. Then Cathbad, 
standing over against him, fell to beseech him and to 
intercede with him, and Niamh, going to him upon the 
couch gave him three kisses, fondly, lovingly. * Dear 
son,' pleaded Cathbad, ' come with me this day to share 
my banquet, and with us will come all the women and 
the poets. And verily to shun or to decline a feast 
also is ^es to thee.' 'Alas for that,' Cuchullin cried; 
'now is it no becoming time for me to feast and to 
make merry : while Erin's four great quarters burn and 
destroy the province, while Ulster are in the Pains, and 
Con all in foreign parts ; so that the men of Erin 
reviling me the while, and reproaching me, say that I 
am put to flight. But were it not thou and Conachar, 
Genann and Ferchertne, the women and the bards as 
well, upon the men I would fall and sternly execute a 
scattering of enemies, so that their dead should be 



BEFORE CUCHULLIN'S DEATH 239 

more than their living.' Then Emer and all the women 
pleaded with him, and the queen ^ addressed herself to 
him saying: 'Little Cu, never until this hour have I 
hindered thee of exploit or of expedition that thou 
mightst desire. For my sake, then, O my first love 
and first darling of the earth's men, my only chosen 
sweetheart, thou one favourite of Erin's poets, go 
now with Cathbad and with Genann, with Celtchar's 
daughter Niamh and all the poets, to share the feast 
which for thee Cathbad hath prepared/ Discreetly, 
and with sweet syllables, Niamh too intreated him 
and, they all rising, he sorrowful and heavy bore them 
company, and so entered into Glenn na mbodhar. 
' Alas for this,' Cuchullin said ; ' I have ever shunned 
entering into this glen, nor ever have come into a spot 
that more misliked me ; for the men of Erin will say 
that to escape from them I now am here.' Into the 
regal mansion of vast size, by Cathbad fashioned to 
receive Cuchullin, now they repaired ; in the midst of 
the glen Hath Mocha and the Dubhsaighlenn ' were 
unyoked. At the king's side of the mansion sat 
Cuchullin, upon whose one hand were Cathbad, Genann, 
and the poets ; upon the other, Niamh daughter of 
Celtchar, with the women. Opposite were the musicians 
and the reciters, performing for them. Thus with 
melody and play they betook them to drink and to be 
merry, making brave and wondrous show of joy and 
joviality before him there. So far their doings. 

Of Calatin's children we now will tell expressly. 

1 i,e, * Lady,' damsel of high degree. 

' i.e, the Grey of Macha and the Black Saiglenn, Cuchullin's two 
chariot steeds. For the account of the capture of these marvellous 
steeds see the tale entitled ' Feast of Briccriu,' D'Arbois de Jubainville's 
Epopie (cltiquc en Irlande^ p. 103. 



240 GREAT DEFEAT ON MUIRTHEMNE 

His three maimed misshapen daughters, h'ghtly flutter- 
ing, swiftly swooping, gained Emania's green, and 
sought the spot where the day before they had descried 
Cuchullin. Whom, when they found not, without avail 
they searched out all Emania, then marvelled whither 
he might be gone, he not being with Conachar and 
with his heroes of the Red Hall. Straightway these 
apparitions knew that from them Cathbad's powers 
concealed him. Up then they rose birdlike, airily 
soaring with the moaning magic wind of their own 
making, and vehemently borne away to scrutinise 
the entire province ; so that nor wood nor sloping 
glen nor dark recess nor path impracticable they left 
unsearched, until at length they came over Glenn na 
mbodhar^ and in mid-glen saw the Hath Madia and 
Dubhsaighlenn, with Riangabar's son Laegh that 
tended them. Then they were aware that Cuchullin 
must be in the glen ; and they heard the poets* noise 
and music, as joyously they banqueted with resonant 
mirth of woman-kind and woman-folk and maidens 
[seeking] to cheer Cuchullin's heart and soul. Calatin's 
offspring therefore gathering hooded sharp-spiked 
thistles, the light wee puff-balls and the wood's withered 
fluttering leaves, made of them [phantasms of] numerous 
warriors armour-clad, and of fighting-men^ bearing 
battle-weapons, so that around the glen was no hill nor 
hillock nor whole district but was filled with battalions, 
with companies of an hundred, and with marshalled 
bands. Up to the clouds of heaven and to the vault 

^ Comp. a similar sort of incantation in the Welsh tale of Math, son of 
Mathonwy, Lady Guest's Mab.y p. 416, and in the old Welsh poem of 
* Kat Godeu,* Skene's Four Atuient Books of IVales, vol. i. pp. 277-8 ; 
vol. ii. p. 138, quoted Rhys's Hibbert Lectures^ p. 258. 



BEFORE CUCHULLIN*S DEAttt 241 

of the firmament ascended the cries, loud and wailing, 
the hoarse bellowings, the hideous chattering laughter, 
which these uttered round [the glen]. Also the land 
was full of preyings, of burnings, of women's tears and 
lamentation, of goblins and all eldritch things that 
gibbered, of trumpets and of horns that brayed. By 
which great prodigies of Calatin's descendants, both 
men and women, both hounds and [all other] dogs 
throughout all the region were terror-stricken. But 
when the women [in the glen] heard these continued 
cries, they answering shouted back ; yet had Cuchullin 
(and more readily than they) caught the great uproar's 
sound. ' Alas I ' he said, ' loud cries I hear from the 
men of Erin that harry all the province ; now is my 
triumph's end at hand, no more shall I be as of old 
esteemed, Ulster lies low for ever I ' * Let that pass,' 
Cathbad said, ' these be but idle and fairy noises of 
fleeting motley hosts, by Calatin's children framed with 
design to hurt thee. Heed them not, but bide here yet 
a while ; banquet with us, and be merry.' Thus did Cu- 
chullin, but still they heard the din of Calatin's children 
raised about the glen ; answering which the women 
then would cry aloud, and raise debate, and join in 
sports around Cuchullin. Calatin's children, perceiving 
that against Cathbad's cunning and the womankind 
these spells of theirs availed them nought, they wearied 
in the end. * Here stay ye,' Calatin's daughter Badb ^ v 
said to her two sisters,^ and maintain the fight that I 
may enter into the glen and, though my death come of 
it, accost Cuchullin.' Then she going forth careered 

^ One of the three war-goddesses. Her name means ' rage ' or ' fury. * 
She was wife of Tethra or Neit. See ' Appearance of the Morrigu,' supra^ 
p. 103, and prefatory note, p. 102. 

Q . 



) 



242 GREAT DEFEAT ON MUIRTHEMNE 

shamelessly and madly to the palace, where she 
assumed a woman's form of the women of Celtchar's 
daughter Niamh, and beckoned out the queen to speak 
with her. Out through the palace-door, a great com- 
pany of the women being with her, Niamh came then ; 
whom every one the witch by her power and magic 
wiles led far from the mansion and, having confounded 
and confused them quite, sent them wandering through 
the glen, then betwixt them and the palace behind 
them cast a spell. This done she departed, as knowing 
that from Cuchullin Niamh had exacted troth that, 
until she should license him, he would not fall on the 
men of Erin. Now then she took on her Niamh's shape 
and, being come where Cuchullin was, bade him attack 
the hosts, saying : * My soul, my hero, and my warrior ! 
dun Delgan is burnt, the plain of Conaille, Muirthemne's 
plain and the whole province, ravaged ; all which 
Ulster will lay to my charge, for that in place of letting 
thee out to avenge the preys and to check this army 
I e'en have hindered and withheld thee. Further, I 
know that I must die ; and that surely 'tis Conachar 
shall slay me, who suffered thee not to avenge the 

province.' Then she pronounced a lay 

Cuchullin said : ' Alas, after that 'tis hard to trust in 
woman I I thought that for all gold of the globe and 
for the whole world's wealth never wouldst thou have 
granted me this leave. Yet since 'tis thou that sufferest 
me to affront battle and dire combat with all Erin's 
men, verily I will go to it' Thereupon Cuchullin, 
being thus enjoined rose presently, but heavy with 
grief, and as he raised himself to stand upright, his 
mantle's border chanced under his feet, or [to be special] 
under his left foot, so that he unwittingly was put 



BEFORE CUCHULLIN'S DEATH 243 

sitting. He from that misadventure upspringing rose 
again, red for shame, and the gold bodkin in his mantle 
flew up to the palace roof-tree, then downwards falling, 
pierced his foot through to the earth. *True,* said 
Cuchullin, ' the bodkin is a foe, the cloak a friend, it 
warns me.' He came out of the palace and bade 
Laegh mac Riangabra harness the horses and make 
ready the chariot. Cathbad and Genann and the 
women-folk in general following him put forth their 
hands to lay hold on him, but might not stay or stop 
him of going from the glen. Then they gazed on the 
province as it lay stretched before them on all sides. 
The witch now being departed from them, loudly and 
terribly they raised the same cries as before; which 
when Cuchullin heard, much that he never yet had 
seen was shown him. Then was he certified that his 
gessa were destroyed, and his endowments perished; 
but Cathbad sought to quiet him, saying ' Dear son, for 
this day only abide by my counsel : which is that thou 
assail not the men of Erin; and thenceforth from all 
magic of Calatin's children I will save thee.' 'Dear 
Master,' he answered, * henceforth there is no more 
cause to guard my life : my span is ended, my gessa 
done away with, and Niamh hath licensed me to go 
meet the men of Erin.* Next, Niamh overtook him 
and, ' Alas, my little Cu,' she cried, * not for the globe's 
gold, not for the whole world's wealth, had I e'er given 
thee that leave ; neither was it I that licensed thee, but 
Calatin's daughter Badb in my shape taken upon her 
to deceive thee. Abide with me then, my friend, my 
gentle loving darling I' But he believing nought of 
that which she said commanded Laegh to harness the 
horses, to prepare the chariot, and to set his fighting 



244 GREAT DEFEAT ON MUIRTHEMNE 

gear in order. Laegh went about the task, nor ever at 
any time had been more loath than now he was to 
execute the same. As he was wont to do, so now he 
shook the bridles at the horses, but they fled before 
him ; the Hath Macha evading him and shewing him 
obstinacy, with restiveness. * Ah, true it is,' said Laegh ; 
* to me 'tis presage of great evil. O my soul \i.e, the 
liatli\ seldom indeed before this day would ye not 
come to meet the bridle and to meet myself And he 
proceeded to discourse the Hath Macha^ inditing of 
his merits and of his fame, and saying to him : — . . . 

Yet even so the horse stayed not for Laegh, who 
coming to Cuchullin told him that the Hath Macha 
stayed not for him. Cuchullin himself rose to catch 
him, but neither for him stayed he ; while down the 
Hath MachcCs cheeks coursed tears of dusky blood, 
large as clenched fist of warrior. Laegh coming on the 
horse's other side said : * This day Hath Macha, above 
any former day, 'tis urgent on thee to prove that thou 
art good,' and he pronounced a lay 

Then the Hath Macha stood for Laegh ; the Dubh- 
saighlenn also he harnessed, and on them both imposed 
the chariot ; which done, he fell to set in order and 
array Cuchullin's varied implements and edged weapons. 
About his skin Cuchullin took his battle-suit and, all 
leave-taking omitted, leaped into his chariot ; but from 
their appointed places when they were set ready to his 
hand, his weapons in the chariot fell away from him 
and down beneath his feet : to him a mighty fore- 
shadowing of evil. He set his face the way he had to 
go, and reached Emania; nor far had they progressed 
when it seemed to him that on Emania's green stood 
strong battalions, the plain he saw as it were filled with 



\ 



BEFORE CUCHULLIN'S DEATH 245 

great ranks and troops of battle, with companies of an 
hundred and marshalled lines, with horses arms and 
armour in great plenty. He deemed moreover that he 
heard shouts more and more terribly increase, saw 
burnings throughout the city spread and extend, whilst 
around Emania nor hill nor hillock but was full of 
plunderers. It appeared to him that men slew Emer, 
and out over Emania's rampart tossed her ; that the 
Red Hall was all aglow, and Emania, as it had been 
a firebrand, blazing in murky black and crimson-flecked 
vapour of great smoke. ' Cathbad,' he said, ' alas for 
this I though ye would hinder me and stay me, how 
great are these preyings, these burnings, and incursions, 
throughout the plain of Emania's level land and over 
the whole province I ' Cathbad answering said, ' Dear 
son, these be but great delusions : temptations which 
these shadowy hosts, feeble and empty, these vague 
and misty crowds all magic-begotten, bring to bear 
upon thee ; for saving only grass and leaves, nought 
else is there.' But of all this, from Cathbad he believed 
nothing, rather saying : 

'Cathbad son of Maelcr6cb, from Cam maighe. . . .' 

In the meantime, the women-folk weeping before 
them, and behind them wailing, they came to Emania, 
and he sought the bower where Emer lay; who 
coming forth to meet them, bade him alight and enter. 
Cuchullin answered : ' I will not, until I shall have 
gone to Muirthemne : there to attack Erin's four 
great provinces, and to avenge the preys, the evils 
and the wrongs, by them inflicted on me and on 
Ulster generally ; for it hath been shown me that 
this place was filled with hostings and with gather- 



246 GREAT DEFEAT ON MUIRTHEMNE 

ings of the men of Erin burning it up and scorching 
it' * Verily/ the young woman said, 'these are all but 
magic phantasms; heed them not nor regard them.' 
'Girl/ said Cuchullin, *my word I pledge thee that, 
until I shall assault the men of Erin's camp, from 
this my task I never will hold back/ At this hearing, 
the womankind raised piercing cries of lamentation ; 
but of the queen and of them all he took his leave. 
Then Cathbad and the poets with loving zeal attend- 
ing him went on to Dechtire's dun, there to bid his 
mother farewell. Dechtire when he came upon the 
green stepped forth to meet him, the while knowing 
well that it was to fall upon the men of Erin he was 
fain to go. Then she proffered him that vat from 
which to take a draught before journey or expedition 
undertaken was to him a certitude of victory ; but [this 
time] what should be in the great vessel but. crimson 
blood alone. ' Dechtire, alas ! ' he said, ' that all else 
forsake me surely is no wonder, when in this state thou 
tenderest me the vat/ A second time she took and 
filled it, then gave it to him ; and a second time it was 
full of blood. Thrice she filled up the vat, and each 
time it was full of blood. Anger against the vat seized 
on Cuchullin now, whereby he hurling it against a rock 
shattered it ; hence to this day Tulach an bhalldin^ 
' Hill of the Vat,' is that hill's name. ' Lady, 'tis true, 
and as regards myself thou art not in fault ; but 'tis 
toy gessa that are all destroyed, and that my life's end 
is near: from the men of Erin this time I shall not 
return alive.' Then he said this lay : 

* O Dechtire, thy vat is empty. . . .' 
Dechtire and Cathbad now besought him that he 



BEFORE CUCHULLIN'S DEATH 247 

would refrain and await Conall ; but he said, ' By no 
means will I wait, for my span and my triumphs are 
determined ; yet will I not for the world's lying vanities 
forsake my fame and battle-virtues, seeing that from 
the day when first I took [a full-grown] warrior's 
weapons in my hand I never have shirked fight or fray. 
Now therefore still less will I do so, for fame will 
outlive life.* ^ Again he was on Emania's green, where 
Ulster's chiefs' and chieftains' daughters dolefully 
waiting for him raised piteous cries of grief Last of 
all, Cathbad alone followed him ; nor as yet were they 
a great way from the fort when at the entrance into 
the Ford of Washing on Emania's plain they chanced 
upon a maiden,* slender and white of her body, yellow 
of her hair. In grief and tribulation she on the ford's 
extreme brink ever washed and wrung crimson bloody 
spoils. ' Little Cij,' Cathbad asked, ' seest thou not 
yonder sight ? She is Badb's daughter that with woe 
and mourning washes thy gear, because she signifies 
thy fall and thy destruction by Meave's great hosting 
and by incantations of Calatin's children. Hence it 
is, my gentle foster-son, that thou shouldst refrain.' 
But : ' Dear guardian, it is well,' he answered ; ' follow 
me now no farther, for from avenging on the men of 
Erin this their coming to burn up my country, to 
ravage and to consume my stronghold, I may not stay. 
What though the fairy woman wash my spoils ? great 

^ An Irish proverb. In an earlier part of this tale Cuchullin says : 
* In every tongue this noble old saying b remembered " Fame ouUives 
Life."' 

' The ' Washer of the Ford ' was a banshee, who foretold the death of 
heroes. In the Bruidhen di Choga, she appears to Cormac eanhingeas as 
a spectre. See a fine imaginative description of her in Sir S. Ferguson's 
Cental, 1872, pp. 56, 57. 



248 GREAT DEFEAT ON MUIRTHEMNE 

spoil of arms, of armour and of gear, is that which by 
my sword and by my spear shall shortly lie there 
drenched in blood, in streams and pools of curdled 
gore. Moreover, loath as ye be to dismiss me into 
danger and against my foes, there to encounter death 
and dissolution, even so cheerful am I that now go to 
have my side bored and my body mangled ; neither 
knowest thou better than I myself know that in this 
onset I must fall. No more then hinder my path and 
course ; for whether I stay I am devoted to death, or 
whether I go my life's span is run out. From me to 
Ulster, to Conachar also and to Emer, carry life and 
health; to meet whom no more for ever I shall go. 
Pity that we should parti a sad and a lamentable 
rending is our rending away from you ! For as now 
in gloom and grief, O Laegh, we get us gone from 
Emer, even so out of far countries and from foreign 
tribes many a day in gallant glee we came home to 

her.' Then he uttered a lay 

Herewith Cuchullin turned his face to Emania, and 
gazing on the town hearkened to the lamentation 
made by the womankind. Then it seemed to him that 
over rath Sdilenn, which to-day is called Ard Macha, 
(Armagh), he saw the angels in their watches ; ^ he 
was aware that over the rath from heaven to earth the 
space was full of splendour and of light, of all things 
excellent, of organs' music, of canticles and minstrelsy. 
To this which he beheld he gave his mind intently, and 
into his heart with influence of love the melody which 
he heard sank. These revelations he told to Cathbad, 
saying: * These be not like the wonders which, as I 

^ The whole of the following passage is plainly a Christian inter- 
polation. 



BEFORE CUCHULLIN'S DEATH 249 

would return to Emania, used to be shown me terrible 
or hideous. The one Almighty God whom they that 
are up there adore, Him I do worship, and in the King 
Supreme that made Heaven and Earth I do believe. 
Now, henceforth and for evermore welcome Death!' 
and he took leave of Cathbad. So he turned his back 
on Emanid, and in joy and gladness, cheerful and void 
of care, went on his way ; his weariness also, his 
delusion and his gloom passed from him. 



THE TRAGICAL DEATH OF 
COCHULAINN 



This translation, abridged from the Book of Leinster (flf. 77a 1-78^. 2), 
was originally contributed by Dr. Whitley Stokes to the Revue Celtiqtte^ 
tome iii. 

The Battle of Muirthemne, in which Cuchulainn fell, was inspired by 
revenge for the deaths of Calatin, Cur6i mac Daire king of Munster, and 
Cairpre niafer king of Meath. Cairpre had been slain in fair fight at the 
Battle of Roi na righ (see Todd Lecture Series, R. I. A., vol. iv.), but 
Cur6i by treachery and by the aid of Cur6i*s adulterous wife Blathnait (f .«., 
* the Weasel '). The Battle of Ros na righ ends with the words, * There- 
from originated the expedition of the battle of Findchora, and the great 
sea-voyage round among the Connachta, and the Battle of the Youths.' 
The latter may mean the Battle of Muirthemne, which was led by the sons 
of the slaughtered men, Lugaid son of Cur6i, Ere son of Cairpre, and 
the six children of Calatin. The death of Calatin and his twenty-seven 
sons forms an episode in the Tdin b6 Cuailgne (sec. 78). 



262 



XII 



CUCHULAINN'S DEATH 

When Cuchulainn's foes came for the last time against 
him, the land was filled with smoke and flame ; weapons 
fell from their racks, and the day of his death drew 
nigh. 

The evil tidings were brought to him, and the maiden 
Levarcham bade him arise, though he was foreworn 
with fighting in defence of the plain of Muirthemne. 
Niamh, wife of Conall the Victorious, also urged 
him, so that he sprang to his arms, and flung his 
mantle about him ; but the brooch fell and pierced his 
foot, forewarning him.^ 

Then he took his shield, and ordered his charioteer, 
Laegh, to harness his horse, the Grey of Macha. But 
Laegh said : * I swear by the God by whom my people* 
swear, that though all the men of Conchobar's fifth ' were 
round the Grey of Macha, they could not bring him to 
the chariot I never gainsaid thee until to-day. Come, 
then, if thou wilt, and speak with the Grey himself.' 

^ For a further account of all this, see ' Battle of Muirthemne,' supra^ 
p. 242, 243. 

' This, the common form of oath in the romances, points to the belief 
in local deities. 

' Conachar's fifth, t./. Ulster. Ireland was anciently divided into five 
provinces, viz. t Ulster, Munster, Leinster, Connacht, and Meath. 

26S 



/ 



254 THE CUCHULLIN SAGA 

Cuchulainn went to him. And thrice did the horse 
turn his left side to his master. On the night before, 
the Morrigu had unyoked the chariot, for she liked not 
Cuchulainn's going to the battle, for she knew that he 
would not come again to Emain Macha. 

Then Cuchulainn reproached his steed, saying that 
he was not wont to deal thus with his master. Thereat 
the Grey of Macha came, and let his big round tears of 
blood fall on Cijchulainn's feet. And Cuchulainn leaped 
into the chariot, and started southwards along the road 
of Mid-Luachair. 

And Levarcham met him, and besought him not to 
leave them ; and the thrice fifty queens who were in 
Emain Macha, and who loved him, cried to him with a 
great cry.^ But he turned his chariot to the right, and 
they gave a scream of wailing and lamentation, and 
smote their hands, for they knew that he could not 
come to them again. 

The house of his nurse that had fostered him was on 
this road. He used to go to it whenever he went driving 
past from the north or south, and she kept for him 
always a vessel, with drink therein. He drank a drink 
and fared forth, bidding his nurse farewell. Then he 
saw somewhat, the Three Crones (/>.* the daughters of 
Calatin), blind of the left eye, before him on the 
road. 

They had cooked a hound with poisons and spells 
on spits of the rowan-tree. Now, one of the things 
that Cuchulainn was bound not to do, was to go to a 
cooking-hearth and consume the food. Another of the 
things that he must not do, was to eat his namesake's 

^ Compare the death of Arthur in Arthurian legend, McUory^s Mwti 
€t Arthur^ Ed. Sommer, vol. i., text, book xxi. chap. v. p. 849. 



CtrCHULAINN'S DEATH 255 

flesh.^ He speeds on, and was about to pass them, for 
he knew that they were not there for his good. 

Then said the Crone to him, ' Stay with us a while, 
O Cuchulainn.' 

' I will not stay with you, in sooth,' said Cuchulainn. 

* That is because the food is only a hound,' quoth 
she. ' Were this a great cooking-hearth thou wouldst 
have visited us. But, because what is here is little, 
thou comest not Unseemly is it for the great to 
despise the small.' ' 

Then he drew nigh to her, and the Crone gave him 
the shoulder-blade of the hound out of her left hand. 
Then Cuchulainn ate it out of his (left) hand, and put 
it under his left thigh. The hand that took it, and the 
thigh under which he put it, were stricken from trunk 
to end, so that their former strength abode not in 
them. 

Then he drove along the road of Mid-Luachair 
around Sliab Fuad ; and his enemy. Ere son of Cairpre, 
saw him in his chariot, with his sword shining redly in 
his hand and the light of valour' hovering over him, 
and his three-hued hair like strings of golden thread 
over an anvil's edge beneath some cunning craftsman's 
hand. 

' That man is coming towards us, O men of Erin ! ' 
said Ere. 'Await him.' So they made a fence of 
their linked shields, and at each corner Ere made them 

^ Cd-chulainn means *Culann's Hound.' For the origin of the name, 
see ' Tdin b6 Cuailgne ' (sec 19). 

' Literally, ' Unseemly is the great who endures not the litUe.' This 
reads like a proverb. 

• The * Ion gaile,' or hero's light, appeared above the head of Cuchullin 
when he was roused to special feats of valour ; cf, the light that Ath^n^ 
makes blaze from the head of Achilles. Iliad xviii. 188*220. 



2s6 THE CUCHULLIN SAGA 

place two of their bravest, feigning to fight each other, 
and a satirist with each of these pairs ; and he told 
the satirists to ask Cdchulainn for his spear, for the 
sons of Calatin had prophesied of his spear that a king 
should be slain thereby unless it were given when 
demanded. 

And he made the men of Erin utter a great cry, and 
Cuchulainn rushed against him in his chariot, perform- 
ing his three thunder-feats ; and he plied his spear and 
sword so that the halves of their heads and skulls 
and hands and feet, and their red bones were scattered 
broadcast throughout the plain of Muirthemne, in 
number like unto the sand of the sea, and the stars of 
heaven ; like dewdrops in May, and flakes of snow and 
hailstones ; like leaves of the forests and buttercups on 
Magh Breagh and grass under the feet of the herds on 
a summer's day. And grey was that field with their 
brains after the onslaught and plying of weapons which 
Cuchulainn dealt out to them. 

Then he saw one of the pairs of warriors contending 
together, and the satirist called on him to intervene, 
and Cuchulainn leaped at them, and with two blows of 
his fist dashed out their brains. 

* Thy spear to me 1 ' says the satirist. 

* I swear by the oath of my people,' said Cuchulainn, 
*thou dost not need it more than I myself do. The 
men of Erin are upon me here, and I too am upon 
them.' 

' I will revile thee if thou givest it not,' says the 
satirist. 

' I have never yet been reviled because of my niggard- 
liness or my churlishness,' said Cuchulainn, and with 
that he flung the spear at him with its handle foremost ; 



CI^CHULAINN'S DEATH 257 

and it passed through his head and killed nine on the 
other side of him. And Ciichulainn drove through the 
host, but Lugaid son of Cur6i got the spear. 

* What will fall by this spear, O sons of Calatin ? ' 
said Lugaid. 

'A king will fall by that spear,' say they. 

Then Lugaid flung the spear at Ciichulainn's chariot 
and it reached the charioteer, Laegh son of Kiangabar, 
and all his bowels came forth on the cushion of the 
chariot 

' Then,' said Laegh, * bitterly have I been wounded, 
etc' 1 

Thereupon Cuchulainn drew out the spear and 
Laegh bade him farewell. Then said Ciichulainn, *JTx>r 
day I shall be champion and I shall also be charioteer.' 

Then he saw the second pair contending, and one of 
them said it was a shame for him not to intervene. 
And Cdchulainn sprang upon them and dashed them 
into pieces against a rock. 

' That spear to me, O Cuchulainn 1 ' said the satirist 

* I swear by the oath of my people, thou dost not 
need the spear more than I do. On my head and my 
valour and my weapons it rests to-day to sweep the 
four provinces of Erin * from the plain of Muirthemne.' 

* I will revile thee,' says the satirist 

' I am not bound to grant more than one request in 
one day; and moreover, I have already saved my 
honour by payment' 

* Then I will revile Ulster for thy default,' says the 
satirist 

« 

^ The beginniDg of a poem of which only the two first words are given 
in the Irish. 
' i,e. the hosts of Meath, Connacht, Leinster, and Munster. 

R 



2S8 THE CUCHULLIN SAGA 

'Never yet hath Ulster been reviled on account of 
any refusal or churlishness of mine. Though little of 
my life remains to me, Ulster shall not be reviled this 
day.' 

Then Cuchulainn cast the spear at him by the handle, 
and it went through his head and killed nine behind 
him, and Cuchulainn passed through the host even as 
we said before. But Ere son of Cairpre took the spear. 

* What shall fall by this spear, O sons of Calatin ? ' 
says Ere, son of Cairpre. 

'A king falls by that spear,' say the sons of Calatin. 

* I heard you say that a king would fall by the spear 
which Lugaid long since cast,' he replied. 

'And that is true,' say the sons of Calatin, 'there- 
by fell the King of the Charioteers of Erin, namely 
Cuchulainn's charioteer, Laegh mac Riangabra.' 
, Thereupon Ere cast the spear at him and it lighted 
on the Grey of Macha. Cdchulainn snatched out the 
spear, and each of them bade the other farewell. 
Thereat the Grey of Macha left him with half the 
yoke hanging from his neck, and went into Grey's 
Linii in Sliab Fuad. Then Ciichulainn drove through 
the host, and saw the third pair contending, and 
he intervened as he had done before. The satirist 
demanded his spear, and Cuchulainn at first refused it. 

* I will revile thee,' quoth the satirist. 

'I have paid for mine honour to-day. I am not 
bound to grant more than one request in one day.' 

* Then I will revile Ulster for thy default' 

* I have paid for the honour of Ulster,' said Cuchu- 
lainn. 

* I will then revile thy race,' said the satirist. 

' Tidings that I have been defamed shall not go back 



CtCHULAINN'S DEATH 259 

to the land to which I myself shall never return ; for 
little of my life remains to me/ said the hero. So 
Cuchulainn flung the spear to him, handle foremost, 
and it went through his head and through thrice nine 
other men. 

*Tis grace with wrath, O Ciichulainn,' says the 
satirist. 

Then Cuchulainn for the last time drove through 
the host, and Lugaid took the spear and said, ' What 
shall fall by this spear, O sons of Calatin ? ' 

'A king will fall thereby,' say the sons of Calatin. 

' I heard you say that a king would fall by the spear 
that Ere cast this morning/ 

* That is true,' say they ; * the King of the Steeds of 
Erin fell by it, namely the Grey of Macha.' 

Then Lugaid flung the spear and struck Cuchulainn, 
and his bowels came forth on the cushion of the chariot, 
and his only horse, the Black Sainglend, fled away, 
with half the yoke hanging to him, and left the chariot 
and his master, the King of the Heroes of Erin, dying 
alone upon the plain. 

Then said Cuchulainn, ' I would fain go as far as 
that loch to drink a drink thereout.' 

* We give thee leave,' said they ; * provided that thou 
come to us again.' 

' I will bid you come for me,' said Cuchulainn, ' unless 
I shall return to you myself.' 

Then he gathered his bowels into his breast, and 
went on to the loch. And he drank his drink, and 
washed himself, and came forth to die, calling on his 
foes to come and meet him. 

Now a great mearing went westwards from the loch, 
and his eye lit upon it, and he went to the pillar-stone 



26o THE CUCHULLIN SAGA 

that is in the plain, and he put his breast-girdle round 
it that he might not die seated nor lying down, but 
that he might die standing up. Then came the men 
around him, but they durst not go to him, for they 
thought he was alive. 

* It is a shame for you,' said Ere, son of Cairpre, *not 
to take that man's head in revenge for my father's 
head that was taken by him.' ^ 

Then came to Cuchulainn the Grey of Macha to 
protect him, so long as his soul was in him, and the 
'hero's light' out of his forehead shone above him. 
And the Grey of Macha wrought the three red onsets 
around him. And fifty fell by his teeth and thirty by 
each of his hoofs. Hence is the saying : ' Not keener 
were the victorious courses of the Grey of Macha after 
Cuchulainn's slaughter.' 

Then came the birds ^ and settled on his shoulder. 

* There were not wont to be birds about that pillar,' 
said Ere, son of Cairpre. Then Lugaid arranged 
Cuchulainn's hair over his shoulder, and cut off his 
head. And the sword fell from Cuchulainn's hand, 
and it smote off Lugaid's right hand, so that it 
fell to the ground. And they struck off Cuchulainn's 
right hand in revenge for this. Then Lugaid and the 
hosts marched away, carrying with them Cdchulainn's 
head and his right hand, and they came to Tara, and 
there is the grave of his head and his right hand, and 
the full of the cover of the shield of mould. 

> i.e. in the Battle of I^os na righ. See R. I. A. Todd Lecture Series, 
vol. iv. pp. 52-57. Ere, after making peace with Cdchulainn, had married 
his daughter. See Additional Note. 

' In the ' Great Defeat on the Plain of Muirthemne ' we read that it 
was Calatin's daughter Badb who hovered over him in the form of a bird 
or scallcrow to find out whether he were really dead. 



CUCHULAINN'S DEATH 261 

From Tara they marched southward to the river 
Liffey. But meanwhile the hosts of Ulster were 
hurrying to attack their foes, and Conall the Victorious, 
driving forward in front of them, met the Grey of 
Macha streaming with blood. Then Conall knew that 
Cdchulainn had been slain. Together he and the Grey 
of Macha sought Cuchulainn's body. They saw the 
corpse of Cuchulainn at the pillar-stone. Then went 
the Grey of Macha and laid his head on Ciichulainn's 
breast^ And Conall said, * A heavy care is that corpse 
to the Grey of Macha.' 

Then Conall followed the hosts, meditating vengeance, 
for he was bound to avenge Cuchulainn. For there 
was a comrade's covenant between Cuchulainn and 
Conall the Victorious, namely, that whichever of them 
was first killed should be avenged by the other. 

* And if I be the first killed,' said Cuchulainn, ' how 
soon wilt thou avenge me ? ' 

* On thy death-day,' said Conall, ' before its evening 
} I will avenge thee. And if I be the first slain,' says 

Conall, ' how soon wilt thou avenge me ? ' 

*Thy blood will not be cold upon the earth,' says 
i Cuchulainn, ' before I shall avenge thee.' 

So Conall pursued Lugaid to the Liffey. 

There was Lugaid bathing. * Keep a look-out over 
the plain,' he said to his charioteer, ' that no one come 
upon us without being seen.' 

The charioteer looked past him. 
L <A single horseman is coming to us,' said he, 'and 
great are the speed and swiftness with which he comes. 

^ Compare the beautiful story of Columba's old white horse at lona, 
Reeves's ed. Adamnan^s Life of St. Columba^ book iii. p. 96, and rf. 
York Powell's Corpus Potticum Boreale^ vol. i. p. 307. 



a62 THE CUCHULLIN SAGA 

Thou wouldst deem that all the ravens of Erin were 
above him. Thou wouldst deem that flakes of snow 
were specking the plain before him/ 

* Unbeloved is the horseman that comes there/ says 
Lugaid. ' It is Conall the Victorious mounted on 
Dewy-Red. The birds thou sawest above him are the 
sods from the horse's hoofs. The snow-flakes thou 
sawest specking the plain before him are the foam from 
the horse's lips and from the bits of the bridle. Look 
again/ says Lugaid, ' by what road is he coming ? ' 

' He is coming to the ford, the path that the hosts 
have taken,' answered the charioteer. 

' Let that horse pass us,' said Lugaid ; * we desire 
not to fight against him.' 

But when Conall reached the middle of the ford he 
spied Lugaid and his charioteer and went to them. 

' Welcome is a debtor's face ! ' said Conall. * He to 
whom thou owest debts demands them of thee. I am 
thy creditor/ continues Conall, ' for the slaying of my 
comrade Cuchulainn, and here I stand suing thee 
for it' 

Then it was agreed to fight on the plain of Argetros, 
and there Conall wounded Lugaid with his javelin. 
Thence they went to a place called Ferta Lugdach. 

*I wish/ said Lugaid, *to have men's truth [t\e. 
strict justice, or fair play] from thee.'^ 

* What is that ? ' said Conall the Victorious. 

' That thou shouldst use only one hand against me, 
for one hand only have L' 

* Thou shalt have that/ says Conall the Victorious. 
So Conall's hand was bound to his side with a cord. 

. ^ This passage is almost identical with the combat of Mesgegra and 
Conall in the * Siege of Howth.' 



CtrCHULAINN'S DEATH 263 

There, for the space between two watches of the day, 
they fought, and neither of them prevailed over the 
other. 

When Conall found that he prevailed not, he saw his 
steed the Dewy- Red by Lugaid. And the steed came 
' close to Lugaid and tore a piece out of his side. 

* Woe is me 1 ' said Lugaid, * that is not men's truth, 
O Conall.' 

* I gave it thee only on my own behalf,' said Conall ; 
' I gave it not on behalf of savage beasts and senseless 
things.' 

' I know now,' said Lugaid, * that thou wilt not go till 
thou takest my head with thee, since we took Cuchu- 
lainn's head from him. Take therefore my head in 
addition to thine own, and add my realm to thy realm, 
and my valour to thy valour. For I prefer that thou 
shouldst be the best hero in Erin.' 

Then Conall the Victorious cut off Lugaid's head. 
And Conall and his Ulstermen returned to Emain 
Macha. That week they made no triumphal entry. 

But the soul of Cdchulainn appeared there to the 
thrice fifty queens who had loved him, and they saw 
him floating in his spirit- chariot over Emain Macha, 
and they heard him chant a mystic song of the Coming 
of Christ and the Day of Doom. 



THE TRAGICAL DEATH OF KING 

CONACHAR 



The original of this piece, taken from LL., will be found with translation 
in O'Curry's MS. Materials of Irish History (Appendix cxvi. pp. 637-643.) 
Beyond some slight modifications in the English, no changes have been 
made. 

It is necessary to read this tale in connection with the 'Siege of 
Howth,' where it is explained how Conall centach came by the brain of 
Mcsgegra, king of Leinster. 

The composition of this piece probably goes back earlier than the loth 
century. As, even at this early date, it was felt desirable to re-cast the 
tale and add a Christian tone, the antiquity of the original pagan form of 
the story is vouched for. 



see 



XIII 

THE TRAGICAL DEATH OF KING 

CONACHAR 

There was an occasion on which the Ultonians at 
Emain Macha were greatly intoxicated, in consequence 
of which angry contentions and disputes about the 
importance of their trophies sprang up between the 
three chief heroes, Conall cemach^ Cuchullin, and 
Lacgaire the Triumphant. ' Bring me/ said Conall, * the 
brain of Mesgegra^ that I may challenge the competing 
warriors.' It was at that time the custom with the 
Ultonians to take out the brains from the head of 
every warrior that they killed in single combat, and to 
mix them with lime until they formed a hard ball. 
And whenever a dispute arose between them or when 
they were comparing trophies, these balls were brought 
to them and they held them in their hands. 'See, 
O Conachar/ said Conall, * the warriors of the trophy- 
comparison have not performed a deed like this in 
single combat; their trophies cannot compare with 
mine.' *That is true indeed,' said Conachar. The 
brain was then restored to the shelf where it was kept. 
Next morning, each one went his way to the sport that 
pleased him best. At this moment Cet,* son of Magach, 

^ Read the ' Siege of Howth ' for an explanation of thb. 
' Get was the most powerful of the Connacht warriors and a deadly 

t87 



268 THE TRAGICAL DEATH OF 

came into Ulster in search of adventures. This Cet 
was the most dangerous pest in Erin. He entered the 
enclosure of Emain having with him the half-heads of 
three Ultonians. Now the two jesters^ of the king 
were making sport together, and one jester said to the 
other that it was the brain of Mesgegra with which they 
played. Cet heard this. He snatched the ball out of 
the hand of one of them, and carried it away with him. 
It was prophesied that Mesgegra would, even after 
death, have his revenge, and Cet knew this. Thence- 
forth, at every battle in which the warriors of Connacht 
fought against Ulster, Cet used to carry the brain-ball 
in his belt, seeking an opportunity to kill some illustrious 
personage among the Ultonians by its means. 

One day, Cet made an expedition eastward and 
carried off a Tdin of cows from the men of Ross. The 
Ultonians pursued him [and overtook the rear of his 
troop]. The Connachtmen, on the other hand, mustered 
to his aid. A battle began and Conachar himself took 
part in it. The women of Connacht prayed the king 
to come to them out of the battle that they might see 
him. For there was not the equal of Conachar in all the 
world, not only in the splendour of his figure, but in his 
carriage, appearance and features ; he excelled by his 
height, symmetry and fine proportions, as well as by 
his eyes, hair, and the fairness of his skin; by his. 
wisdom, prudence and eloquence as well as by the 

enemy of Ulster. He plays a large part in the tale called ' Mac Datho's 
Pig,* Hihemica Mincra^ Anec. Oxon., ed. by Dr. Kuno Meyer. He 
was killed by Conall cemach^ and the stroke which slew him is counted 
one of the three greatest cuts ever made in Erin, Sih)a GadcHca^ 
vol. ii. p. 345. 

^ There is a quaint description of Conachar's fool or jester in Mcsca 
Ulad^ R.I.A., Todd Lecture Series, pp. 35*37. 



KING CONACHAR 269 

magnificence of his raiment and his air of distinction. 
In arms in amplitude and in dignity he was as famous 
as he was also in accomplishment in valour and in the 
nobility of his descent. Conachar, indeed, was without 
blemish. But it was Cet who had incited the women 
of Connacht to proffer their request 

Then Conachar withdrew from his followers, so that 
the women might view him. Cet had placed himself 
beforehand in the middle of the group of women. He 
adjusted Mesgegra's brain-ball in his sling, and flung 
it so that it entered Conachar's skull to two-thirds of 
its whole size, and the king fell head-foremost to the 
ground. 

The men of Ulster rushed forward and wrested him 
from the hands of Cet 

On the brink of the ford of Daire di Bhaeth it was 
that Conachar fell. There is his bed, and a rock rises 
at the head and a rock at the feet. 

Then were the Connachtmen routed and driven back 
to Sciaidh aird na Con. But the Ulstermen in their 
turn were driven back to Daire di Bhaeth. 

' Carry me out of the battle,' said Conachar. * The 
kingdom of Ulster to him who will carry me to my 
own house I ' 

'I will carry thee,' said Cennberraidhe, his own 
servant 

He bound his master with a rope upon his back and 
carried him to Ard Achad of Sliab Fuad. But there 
his heart burst within him, so that he died; thence 
comes the saying, 'The sovereignty of Cennberraidhe 
over Ulster ' ; that is, that he bore the king upon his 
back for half a day. 

But the battle continued from that hour until the 



270 THE TRAGICAL DEATH OF 

same hour of the following day, and then the Ultonians 
were overthrown. 

In the meantime, Conachar's physician, one Fingen, 
was sent for to him. [Now the skill of Fingen was 
such] that by the vapours that arose from a house he 
could tell how many were ill in that house, and with 
what disease they were afflicted. * Well,' said Fingen, 
* if the ball be extracted from thy head, thou wilt die 
at once. But if thou suffer it to remain, I can restore 
thee to health, only thou wilt retain the blemish of it.' 

' The blemish/ said the Ultonians, ' is a small thing for 
us compared with his death.' 

His head was then healed, and it was stitched with a 
thread of gold, because Conachar had golden hair. 
And the physician warned the king to be cautious, 
and not to allow himself to be roused to anger or to 
passion, nor to ride henceforth on horseback, nor to 
run. 

So long as Conachar lived, namely, for seven years, 
he continued in that precarious condition ; he was 
incapable of action and could merely remain sitting 
still. This lasted until the day on which he heard that 
Christ had been crucified by the Jews. There came at 
that time a convulsion over nature, and the heavens 
and the earth were shaken by the enormity of the deed 
that was there perpetrated, namely, when Jesus Christ, 
the Son of the living God, although He had done no 
sin, was crucified. 

* What is this ? ' asked Conachar of his Druid ; * what 
great evil is being committed to-day ? ' * A great evil, 
indeed,' said the Druid. [And he related to him the 
death of Jesus Christ] ' That is a terrible crime,' said 
the king. ' The Man who has just been crucified,' con- 



KING CONACHAR 271 

tinued the Druid, ' was born on the same night of the 
year as that on which you were born,^ namely, in the 
eighth of the kalends of January, though the year was 
not the same.' 

Then Conachar believed ; and he was one of the two 
who believed in God in Erin before the coming of the 
Faith : the other man was Morann. 

' Alas, now,' said Conachar, ' would that Christ had 
appealed to the aid of a valiant high-king, for then 
would I have rushed to his relief, a hardy champion, 
with quivering lip, with the valour of a soldier dealing 
division between hosts ; by heavy slaughter setting the 
bound One free. With Christ should my assistance be. 
A wild cry is gone up to heaven ; a true Lord, a bitter 
loss is lamented ; the crucifixion of a King, the greatest 
of human beings ; an illustrious, admirable King. I 
would pour out my complaint to the loyal host, to the 
workers of noble feats : promptly would they, with 
irresistible might, come to the aid of the merciful God. 
Complete would be the overthrow that I should make. 
Splendid the combat that I would wage for Christ who 
is being defiled. Though my body of clay suffered 
torments I would not rest. . . . My heart is broken at 
the sound of the wailing for my God ; that my arm 
cannot be stretched forth in relief to arrest the pains 
of death — because I am not permitted to ride in 
chariots — and to avenge the death of my Creator.' 

The time that Conachar made this declamation was 
when Bacrach, a Druid of Leinster, told him that Christ 
was crucified : or perchance it was Altus, the [Roman] 
Consul, who came from Octavius to demand tribute 

^ This attempt to synchronbe the birth and death of G)nachar with 
that of our Lord is evidently a Christian interpolation. 



272 THE CUCHULLIN SAGA 

from the Gaels, that told the king that Christ was 
crucified.^ 

[Keating ends the tale as follows] : 

And with that Conachar brought out his sword, and 
rushed at a woody grove which was near to him, and 
began to cut and to fell it ; for he said, that if he were 
among the Jews, he would use them in the same 
manner : and from the excess of the fury that seized 
upon him, the lump started out of his head, and some 
of his brain came away with it ; and in that manner 
was his death. 

The Wood of Ldmhraighe, in Feara Rois, is the name 
by which that shrubby wood is called. 



^ This is evidently a note by a later scribe which has crept into the text. 
It suggests what seenis to himself a more plausible explanation than that 
contained in the original story. 



THE PHANTOM CHARIOT OF 

CUCHULLIN 



This translation, from the original in LU., is founded on that published by 
O'Beime Crowe in the journals of the Kilkenny Archaeological Society, 
1870-71, pp. 371-448. Besides slight modifications of the English with 
a view to clearness, I have adopted some fresh readings published by 
Dr. Whitley Stokes in a pamphlet entitled Remarks on the Celtic Additions 
to Curtiu^ Greek Etymology (Calcutta, 1875, pp. 55-7), and by Professor 
Rhys in his Hibbert Lectures^ pp. 260, 261. Mr. S. H. 0*Grady has 
furnished me with rc-renderings of a few very obscure passages. These 
will be found in the footnotes. 

The tale, which introduces us to a new and Christian order of things, is 
interesting as showing the esteem in which the old pagan hero was held 
even in Christian times. The possibility of Cuchullin's reception into 
heaven is not only admitted, but he is appealed to by St. Patrick to witness 
before the heathen king to the truth of his doctrine. 



m 



XIV 

THE PHANTOM CHARIOT OF CUCHULLIN 

Patrick went to Tara to enjoin belief upon the King 
of Erin, that is, upon Laegaire,^ son of Niall, for he was 
King of Erin at the time ; for he would not believe in 
the Lord though He had been preached unto him. 

Laegaire said to Patrick: 'By no means will I 
believe in thee, nor yet in God, until thou shalt call 
up CuchuUin in all his dignity, as he is recorded in 
the old stories, that I may see him, and that I may 
address him in my presence here; after that I will 
believe in thee/ 

' Even this thing is possible for God,' said Patrick. 

Then a messenger came from the Lord to Patrick, 
and he said that they [i.e. Patrick and Laegaire] should 
remain until the morrow on the rampart of the Rath 
of Tara, and that Cuchullin would appear to him there, 

Afterwards (that is, after the appearance of Cuchullin 
to him in his chariot) Laegaire went to converse with 
Patrick. 

Patrick said to Laegaire: 'Has something indeed 
appeared to thee ? ' 

'Something has indeed appeared to me,' said 
Laegaire; 'but I have not power to relate it, unless 
thou wilt sign and consecrate my mouth.' 

^ Laegaire reigned a.d. 429-458. See Additional Notes on this tale. 

S76 



276 THE PHANTOM CHARIOT 

'I will not sign thy mouth/ said Patrick, 'until I 
shall have my demand. I will, however, make a sign 
on the air that comes out of thy mouth, in order that 
thou mayest describe the appearance which was shown 
to thee.' 

* As I was going,' said Laegaire, * over the Slope of 
the Chariot to the Hill of the Sfdh of the Plain, in 
the Plateau of the Assembly in the plain of Maclndoc, 
I saw the cold piercing wind, like a double-barbed 
spear. It hardly spared to take the hair from our 
heads, and to go through us to the earth. I asked 
of Benen^ the meaning of the wind Benen said to 
me, *^ That is the wind of hell after its opening before 
Cuchullin." We saw then the heavy fog which dropped 
upon us. I asked also of Benen the meaning of the 
heavy fog. Benen said that the fog was the breath of 
men and of horses that were traversing the plain 
before me. 

' Then we saw the great raven-flock on high above 
us. The country was full of birds, and in height they 
reached to the clouds of heaven. I asked of Benen con- 
cerning that matter. Benen said they were sods thrown 
up by the hoofs of the horses that were yoked to 
CuchuUin's chariot. After that, we being still there, 
we saw the forms of the horses through the mist, and 
of men in the easy chariot. A charioteer on high 
behind them ; a spirit-chieftain : horses that ride paths.* 

' I observed after this the two horses ; equal in size 
and beauty were they, and only unlike in form and 
colour; in swiftness, in symmetry, in action, equal. 

^ Benien or St. Benignus was companion to St. Patrick and his successor 
at Armagh. See Additional Note. 
' < Horses that career along roads, tracks, courses,' S. II. O'Grady. 



OF CUCHULLIN 277 

Broad were their hoofs and broad their backs; in 
colour beautiful ; in height, in vehemence, remarkable. 
Their heads were small : large-lipped, bright-eyed. Red 
of chest, sleek and well-knit, they yielded promptly to 
the yoke ; they [attracted attention by] the lofty 
dignity [of their movements] ; their manes and tails 
hung down in curls. 

'Behind the pair a wide-spaced chariot [Beneath 
it], two black solid wheels ; [above it], two symmetrical, 
over-lapping reins ; its shafts firm and straight as 
swords ; the reins adorned and pliant ; the pole, white 
silver with a withe o{ findruine\ the yoke, firm, ridged, 
and made of gold ; the hood, purple ; the fittings, green. 

'Within the chariot a hero was visible. His hair 
was thick and black, and smooth as though a cow had 
licked it In his head his eye gleamed swift and grey. 
About him was flung a tunic of purplc-bluc, its borders 
of white gold-withe. It was clasped with a brooch of 
red gold upon his breast ; it floated out over each of 
his two shoulders. A white hooded cloak hung about 
him with a border of flaming red. A sword with a 
hilt of gold lying in a rest on his two thighs ; and in 
his hand a broad grey spear on a shafl of wild ash. 
Beside it lay a sharp venomous dart Across his 
shoulders he bore a purple shield surrounded by an 
even circle of silver ; upon it were chased loop- 
animals in gold. Into his head a shower of pearls 
seemed to have been thrown. Blacker than the side 
of a black cooking-spit each of his two brows, redder 
than ruby his lips. 

'Before him in the chariot was the charioteer; a 
certain very slender, tall and lank, stooped, very 
freckled person. Very curly red hair on the top of 



278 THE PHANTOM CHARIOT 

his head ; a wreath {gibne) of findruine on his fore- 
head, that prevented his hair from falling about his 
face. Above his two ears spheres of gold, into which 
his hair was gathered. About him was a winged little 
cloak,^ with an opening at its two elbows. He held in 
his hand a small goad of red gold with which he urged 
on his horses. It seemed to me that it was Cuchullin 
and Laegh, his charioteer, who were within the chariot, 
and that it was the Dubhsaighlenn and the Hath 
Mocha that were yoked to it' ^ 

' Dost thou believe in God henceforth, O Laegaire,' 
said Patrick, 'since Cuchullin came to converse with 
thee ? ' 

' If it were Cuchullin that I saw, it seems to me that 
he stayed too short a time conversing with me.' 

' God is powerful,' said Patrick. * If it were indeed 
Cuchullin, he will return and converse with thee again.' 

Now they remained still in the same place, and they 
perceived the chariot coming across the plain towards 
them drawn by its two horses. Within rode Cuchullin 
[garbed] as a warrior, and Laegh, son of Riangabar, as 
his charioteer. 

Then in mid-air Cuchullin performed twenty-seven 
feats of skill above them. 

The Noise-feat of Nine, that is the Feat of Cat 
the Feat of Cuar and the Feat of Daire, the Blind- 
feat of Birds, Leap over Poison, Red-folding of a brave 
Champion, the Bellows-dart, the Stroke with Quick- 

^ ' He wore a lapeted hood of the lesser sort, the same being slit up 
at either corner,' S. H. O'Grady. See Additional Notes on cochcM^ 
findrttine^ gibiu^ etc. 

' This description of Cuchullin and his charioteer closely resembles 
that in the ' Wooing of Emer.' 



OF CUCHULLIN 279 

ness, the Ardour of Shout, the Hero's Scream, the 
Wheel-feat, Edge-feat, Apple-feat, and Noise-feat; 
the Ascent by rope, and Straightening of Body on 
Spear-point, the Binding of a Noble Champion, the 
Return-stroke and the Stroke with measure.^ 

In respect of the charioteer, the management of the 
reins confounds all speech: he is above evaporations 
and breathings.' 

Then Cuchullin went to converse with Patrick and 
saluted him, saying : 

' I beseech, O holy Patrick, 

In thy presence that I may be, 
That thou wouldst bring me with thy fiuthful ones, 
Into the Lands of the Living.' 

[Then he addressed the king thus.] 

' Believe in God and in holy Patrick, O Laegaire, 
that earth's surface may not come over thee ; for it is 
not a demon that has come to thee : it is Cuchullin, 
son of Sualtach. For, a world for every champion is 
law or earth : every quiet one's is concealment, every 
hero's is earth, every holy one's is heaven : for of the 
order of demons is everything thou ponderest on : it 
is the world of each in turn that thou chariotest'* 

^ Only nineteen feats are here mentioned. In the ' Wooing of Emer ' 
a list of twenty-four is given. See 0*Beirae Crowe's notes to this 
tale, Kilktnny Journal^ iS7i> part iL, and O'Curry, Man, CusL^ vol. iL 

pp. 372-373. 

' ue* ' He is above ears [of horses] and breaths [of men.]' Elsewhere 
the phrase occurs in full, and must mean that he overtopped all others. 
S. H. 0*Grady. 

' This is a difficult passage. Mr. 0*Grady reads as follows: 'For 
the world of all champions is : law or earth ; of all the quiet : that they 
are concealed [relegated to obscurity] ; of all saints : heaven ; . . . the 
world of all the rest it is that in turn thou dost roam through [ue, expert- 



28o THE PHANTOM CHARIOT 

CuchuUin was silent, and Laegaire did not speak. 

'Who chariots the Bregia, O Laegaire? Who sits 
their slopes? Who watches their fords? Whom do 
their wives elope with? Whom do their daughters 
love ? ' 

'What is that inquiry to me and to thee?' says 
Laegaire. 

'There was a time, O Laegaire, that it was I who 
used to go among them, who used to go around them, 
who used to keep them together. I was their little 
champion whom they used to love: whom with high 
spirits they used to play about. There was a time, O 
Laegaire, it was I who used to go to their great attacks, 
who used to burst their great contests. I was the 
battle-victorious, loud-shouting, red-wristed, broad- 
palmed, brave Cuchullin, who used to be on the rich 
plain of Muirthemne. Believe in God and in Patrick, 
O Laegaire, for it is not a demon that has come to thee, 
but Cuchullin son of Sualtach.' 

'If it is Cii that is here present,' said Laegaire, 
' he will tell us of his great deeds.' 

' That is true, O Laegaire,' said Cuchullin. ' I was 
the destroyer of hostageship in the reception of the 
fords of my territories ; I was heavy of hand on heroes 
and great hosts. I used to hunt the fleet herds of 
my enemies in the full rushries, and left their flocks 
live-dead upon the mountains after the slaying in 
equal combat of the men who were over them.' 

'If thou didst indeed those deeds that thou re- 
countest, the deeds of a hero were with thee ; but 
they were not the deeds of Cii.' 

ence, make trial of]*' The 'world' seems to mean 'the way of the 
world,' ' the lot of each. 



OF CUCHULLIN 281 

• That is true, O Laegaire : 

' I was not a hound of taking of a Les 
I was a hound of taking of a deer : 
I was not a hound of a forbidden trotter, 
I was a hound strong for combat : 
I was not a hound of round lickings of leavings, 
I was a hound who visited the troops : 
I was not a hound to watch over calves, 
I was a hound to guard Emania.'^ 

'If those deeds are as thou recountest them, the 
deeds of a hero were with thee/ 

'That is true, O Laegaire,' savs Cuchullin: 'the 
deeds of a hero were with me. 

' I was a hero, I was a leader ; 

I was the charioteer of a great chariot ; 
I was gentle to the gentle, 
But against dishonour I wrought vengeance. 

I was the innocent of my enemies ; I was not the 
poison-tongue * of my territories ; I was the casket of 
every secret for the maidens of Ulidia. I was a child 
with children ; I was a man with men. It was for 
correction I used to labour. I was good against my 
satirising ; I was better for praising.' ' 

'If it be Cuchullin that is here,' says Laegaire, 'he 
will tell us a portion of the great risks he risked.' 

' That is true, O Laegaire,' said Cuchullin. 

^ This passage is a play upon Cuchullin's name, 'the Hound of 
Culann.' He dwells upon his noble deeds. 

' ' Poison-tongue ' is the epithet applied to Briccriu. 

' ' As against satire directed against me, I was good ; as against praise, 
I was better,' i.e, I never deserved satire ; I outstripped all panegyric, 
S. H. O'Grady. 



282 THE PHANTOM CHARIOT 

I. 

' I used to hunt their great flocks 
With hardy Conachar : 
It was in a foreign territory, 

I used to behold each victory. 

II. 
I played on breaths 

Above the horses' steam : 
Before me on every side 

Great battles were broken. 

III. 

I broke contests 

On the champions of the territories : 
I was the sword-red hero 

After the slaying of hosts. 

IV. 

I broke edge-feats 

On the points of their swords ; 
I reached their great spoils, 

Were it through drivings of fire I ' 

[The next stanzas describe a journey in which he 
waged battles against Lochland on the north, and slew 
a giant. He continues] : — 

X. 

' A journey I went, O Laegaire, 

When I went into the Land of Scath :^ 
DGn Scaith in it with its locks of iron — 
I laid hand upon it. 

XI. 

Seven walls about that city — 

Hateful was the fort : 
A palisade of irons on each wall. 

On which were nine heads. 

^ i,e, Scathach the Amazon, with whom CuchulHn learned feats in 
Alba. See * Wooing of Emer,' iupra, p. 73. 



OF CUCHULLIN 283 

XII. 

Doors of iron on each flank — 

Not strong defences against us : 

I struck them with my foot, 

And drove them into fragments. 

XIII. 

There was a pit in the ddn, 

Belonging to the king, so it is said : — 

Ten serpents^ burst 

Over its border — it was a deed ! 

XIV. 

After that I attacked them. 

Though very vast the throng, 
Until I made bits of them, 

Between my two fists. 

XV. 

I 

There was a house full of toads, 

That were let loose upon us ; 
Sharp, beaked monsters 

That clave to my snout. 

XVI. 

Fierce dragon-like monsters 

Were sent against us ; 
Strong were their witcheries 

Though they . . . 

XVII. 

After that I attacked them 

When a rush was made on me 

I ground them into small pieces 
Between my two palms. 

^ Compare the combat of Conall certtach with the serpents in the 
'Tdin b6 Fraich.' Nearly all heroes and demi-gods are represented as 
overcoming serpents. 



284 THE PHANTOM CHARIOT 

XVIII. 

There was a caldron in that ddn ; ^ 
The calf of the three cows : — 

Thirty joints [of meat] in its girth, 
Were not a charge for it. 

XIX. 

They used to frequent that caldron, 

Delightful was the contest ; 
They would not go from it on any side, 

Until they left it full. 

XX. 

There was much gold and silver in it — 

Wonderful was the find : 
That caldron was given [to us] 

By the daughter of the king. 

XXI. 

The three cows we carried off— 
They swam boldly over the sea : 

There was a load of gold for two men 
To each of them on her neck. 

XXII. 

After we had come upon the ocean. 

Which spread out towards the north, 

The crew of my currach was drowned 
By the fierce storm. 

XXIII. 

After this I floated them 

Though it was a sharp danger 

Nine men on each of my hands 
Thirty on my head. 

^ f.r. the diin of Cur6i mac Daire, with whose wife Blathnait CuchuUin 
had a discreditable connection. There is a reference to this passage in 
MS. H. 2, i6, col. 777, T. C. D. See also, Silva GadelUa^ Extracts xii. 
xxxvii.; Rhys's Hibbert Lectures y pp. 261, 473-6; O'Curry's il/a/i. Cust,^ 
voL iii, pp, 79*82, 



OF CUCHULLIN 285 

XXIV. 

Eight upon my two sides 

Clung to my body. 
Thus I swam the ocean 

Until I reached the harbour. 

XXV. 

What I suffered of trouble, 

Laegaire, by sea and land : — 
Yet more severe was a single night, 

When the demon was wrathful. 

XXVI. 

My little body was scarred— 

With Lugaid the victory : 
Demons carried off my soul 

Into the red charcoal. 

XXVII. 

I played the swordlet on them, 

1 plied on them the gae bulga ; 
I was in my concert victory 

With the demon in pain.^ 

XXVIII. 

Great as was my heroism. 

Hard as was my sword : 
The devil crushed me with one finger 

Into the red charcoal ! ' 

[CuchuUin endeavours to persuade King Laegaire 
to believe in God and Patrick, by dwelling on the 
pains of hell, in which are lying the champions of the 

^ f./. ' I was in exact correspondence with the Devil in pain ' [in every 
way my torments corresponded with his]. There is something very quaint 
in the notion of CuchuUin plying the goi bulga on the demons of helL It 
b a foretaste of many mediaeval visions of the Infemo. 



286 THE PHANTOM CHARIOT 

Ulad. He extols Patrick's power in having conjured 
him up. He concludes :] 

XLVII. 

' Though thine were the continual life 

Of earth, with its beauty, 
Better is a single reward in heaven 
With Christ, Son of the living God. 

XLVIII. 

I beseech, O holy Patrick, 

In thy presence, that I may come. 

That thou wouldst bring me with thy jfaithful ones 
Unto the land which thou drivest about.' ^ 

* Believe in God and holy Patrick, O Laegaire, that a 
wave of earth may not come over thee. It will come, 
unless thou believest in God and in holy Patrick, for it 
is not a spirit that has come to thee : it is Cuchullin, 
son of Sualtach.' 

Now, that thing came indeed to pass: earth came 
over Laegaire ;* heaven is declared for Cuchullin. Now 
Laegaire believed in Patrick in consequence. 

Great was the power of Patrick, in awakening 
Cuchullin after being nine fifty years' in the grave; 
that is, from the reign of Conachar mac Nessa (it is he 

^ ' I crave, holy Patrick, may it be mine to attain to thy companion- 
ship ; along with thy faithful, may he convey me into the land which he 
pervades,* S. H. O'Grady. 

' O'Beime Crowe says that the story-teller has confused between King 
Laegaire and a Druid of the same name, who was swallowed up at the 
prayer of St. Patrick. But probably the reference is to the strange death 
of the king. See Additions^ Note. 

* i,i, four hundred and fifty years. The date of Laegaire being 429- 
458, this calculation agrees with the chronologists in placing the epodi 
of Conachar and Cuchullin in the first century. 



OF CUCHULLIN 287 

that was born in co-birth with Christ), to the end of 
the reign of Laegaire, son of Niall, son of Eochaid 
tnuighmeddin, son of Muiredach Hrech^ son of Fiachra 
roptine^ son of Cairpre liffechair^ son of Cormac ulfada^ 
son of Art aenfer^ son of Conn, the fighter of a hundred, 
son of Feradach rechtmar, son of Tuathal iechtmar^ son 
of Feradach finnfachtnach^ son of Crimthann niadndr^ 
son of Lugaid of the Red Stripes. And he [i>. Lugaid] 
was a foster-son to Cuchullin, son of Sualtach. 



ADDITIONAL NOTES 



ON «THE WOOING OF EMER.' 

After the likeness of the House of the Meadhall—i,e. the Tcach- 
Miodhchuarta, or banqueting-hall of Tara. This was an oblong 
building. The ruins measure 759 feet in length by 46 feet in 
breadth, but it was originally wider. See Petrie's Tara Hill^ pp. 
160-189, for full description. It had fourteen doors,* seven to the 
west and seven to the east, and was slightly raised at the southern 
end where the dais of the bards and brehons stood. The follow- 
ing description of it is given in the time of Cormac O'Cuinn : — 
' Three hundred feet was the measurement of the house and seven 
cubits the length of the fire-place, and seven chandeliers in that 
palace. Twice seven doors in that Royal House. Three times 
fifty imdhas {i.e, couches, beds, or compartments) beside the 
imdha of Cormac ; three times fifty heroes in each imdha, 
Cormac had fif^y lawgivers. Fifty heroes stood up in the pre- 
sence of the king while he was eating.' — H. 2, 18, quoted Petrie, 
Tara^ p. 163. A description of the Croebh Ruad or Red Branch 
House reads as follows : — ' A jointed plate of red yew the house 
and apartments. The apartment of Conchobar in the centre 
of the house. Rails of bronze about it, with tops of silver, and 
birds of gold on the rails ; and gems of precious stone— they 
are the eyes that used to be in their heads.' In the Feast of 
Briccriu we have a description of Meave's palace at Cruachan. 
It appears to have been circular, not oblong like the others, 
and had twelve windows with glass shutters to them. The royal 
apartment was, as at Tara and Emain Macha, in the middle of 
the house. 

Pp. 63-69. Kennings. — This curious conversation, in which 
Cuchullin and Emer converse together in figures of speech not 
understood by their companions, is a remarkable example of what 

T 



290 THE CUCHULLIN SAGA 

are known as 'kennings/ the use of which Irish literature shares 
with Iceland. There are several other places in which this 
hyperbolic form of speech is used. In a poem known as Di 
Choca's poem (Rawl. U. 512, fo. 52<7, 2, and Egerton 88, fo. 14^), 
the various dishes of a banquet are thus described. It begins : 
' Banban the bard had gone to the house of the woman Desnat, 
who prepared a repast for them. Said the bard to the apprentice 
who was asleep : " Get up," said he, " we are served." To test 
the apprentice, Banban said : " Tell' us by the rules of thy art [/>. 
through kennings], the repast that has been given us." Then 
said the apprentice : '* Here is gravel of Glenn Ai," etc. (mean- 
ing "hen's eggs."*)* In Sc6\ Baili Binnb^rlaig, or The Story 
of Baile the Sweet-spoken (Harl. 5280, fo. 48a), a number of 
Latin, Hebrew, and archaic Irish words are used instead of the 
ordinary Irish words.' From the extract that we give above, it 
would appear that this form of speech was a special accomplish- 
ment of those who desired to become bards, and was used as a 
test of their capacities. We know that there was a special 
' dialect of the poets,' which had to be acquired by all aspirants 
during their apprenticeship. Whether the use of * kennings ' was 
introduced from Scandinavia or arose separately in Ireland it is 
difficult to say. It may be a mere form of erudite slang. 

Slang of various kinds has always been employed by certain 
sections of society. The learned slang of Euphuism or that 
ridiculed by Moli^re in Precieuses ridicules has gone out of 
fashion, but that of the Stock Exchange and the turf remains. 
It is as mysterious to those outside the circle of the initiated as 
was CuchuUin's conversation to Laegh and the maidens. 

For other examples of poetic obscurity, see Battle of Magh 
Rathy ed. O'Donovan (published by the Irish Arch. Soc), proem, 
pp. 90-95 ; ' The fate of the Children of Tuireann,' (published 
by the Society for the Preservation of the Irish Language), pp. 
107-108, and 'The Proceedings of the Great Bardic Institution' 
(published by the Ossianic Soc, vol. v.), pp. 15-17. In all these 
instances the bard is obliged to explain his poem word for word 
as it is otherwise incomprehensible to the audience. 

1 Hibemica Minora ^ edited by Prof. Kuno Meyer. Anecdota Oxonirnsia, 
Mediaeval and Modern Series. Part viii. (Clarendon Press. ) 
* Revue Celtique, t. xiii., edited by Prof. Kuno Meyer, preface and notes. 



ADDITIONAL NOTES 291 

The Bridge of the Cliff. — This is the earliest appearance in 
Irish literature of this famous bridge. It may have been intro- 
duced from Norse legend. It is not mentioned in the shorter and 
older recension, nor is the home of Scathach there said to be on 
an island. The account of this incident in MS. RawL B. 512, 
is as follows : ' There was a large glen before him. One narrow 
path across it. Yet that was his way to the house of Scath- 
ach. Across a terrible stormy height besides. He then went 
that way. He went up to the dun.' The Bridge of the Cliff 
was, however, destined to play an important part in later Irish 
Visions of Purgatory and Hell. (See Vision of Adamndn, ed. 
Dr. Whitley Stokes, Calcutta, 1870. Vision of Tundale, ed. 
by Mr. Tumbull from a MS. in the Advocates' Library, Edinburgh, 
1843. Vision of Owayn Miles, ed. TurnbuU and Laing, Edinburgh, 
1837). The idea of a 'brig o' Dread' is familiar in many Border 
ballads, and in Arthurian legend. It belongs to the Hell- 
doctrine of nearly all Oriental religions. Scathach means 
' shadowy,' and her abode may have been looked upon as a realm 
of darkness. She probably gives her name to the Isle of Skye. 
For a study of the whole subject see Lucian Schermann's Material- 
ten sur Geschichte der indischen Visions-lit teratur^ Leipzig, 
1892. The Persian belief will be found expressed in Zend Avesta 
Fargard xiii. la, Fargard xix. v. For that of the Mohammedans 
see Sales' Koran, prel. discourse. 



ON *THE SIEGE OF HOWTH.' 

Bardic Circuit. — These princely or bardic circuits became a 
serious infliction to the chiefs, who were bound to offer enter- 
tainment. These visitations were only submitted to through 
dread of the satire of the bards, which was supposed to bring 
down evil on themselves and their country. (Compare the 
Boromean Tribute, 5/7. Gad.^ vol. ii.. Trans, p. 408 ; and Rev, 
Celt,y vol. xiii. ; and see the Proceedings of the Great Bardic 
Institution, Trans. Ossianic Society for 1857, vol. v.) 

The visitation of Athaime who was Arch-Poet of Ulster was 
political, and devised for the express purpose of picking a quarrel 



292 THE CUCHULLIN SAGA 

with the southern chiefs. His circuit was made during the 
height of the power of the Northern Province when, lifted up. 
with insolence, they sought still further contests. Athaime, 
though here mentioned with deserved execration, is elsewhere 
honourably spoken of. (See O'Curry, MS, Mat,^ pp. 176, 383.) He 
met with a violent death, the just result of his own evil deeds. 
(See Y. B. Lecan, facsimile, R. I. A, List of Contents.) 



ON 'THE DEBILITY OF THE ULTONIANS.' 

One of the most curious features in the Cuchullin romance is 
the Cess noiden Ulad^ the weakness that at certain critical moments 
in the history of their country fell upon the Ultonians. In the 
Tdin b<5 Cuailgne we find Cuchullin holding back single-handed 
the hosts of Ailill and Meave, while the Ultonians are incapaci- 
tated by one of their periodical fits of debility from coming to his 
assistance. He is at length obliged to send his father to inquire 
whether they are free from their sufferings, as he can no longer 
keep at bay by his single force the combined hosts of Erin. 
Again, before the great battle of Muirthemne, when all Erin and 
the powers of evil were leagued together against Cuchullin, the 
Ultonians were equally unable to give him aid, for 'the Curse 
worked upon Ulster,' and * in Emain Macha, with Ulster's nobles, 
Conachar lay in the Pains.' 

This curious idea has been supposed to have had its origm in 
some custom similar to the ' Couvade ' which has been practised 
among many savage nations, and retains its hold even to-day 
among the Indians of Central and South America, the natives of 
Martinique and the islands near Panama, in parts of China, and 
in the Congo State in Africa. Diodorus and Strabo mention its 
existence in Corsica and other places in Europe, and it is found 
still among the Basque inhabitants of Northern Spain. 

Francisque- Michel says : — ^ En Biscaye, dans les valines, toute 
la population rappelle, par les usages, Tenfance de la socidt^ ; les 
femmes se Invent immddiatement apr^s leurs couches et vaguent 
aux soins du manage, pendant que leur mari se met au lit, prend 
la tendre creature avec lui, et revolt ainsi les complements des 
voisins.' 



ADDITIONAL NOTES 293 

A similar custom is recorded concerning the province of 
Zardanan by Marco Polo (see Yule's Marco Polo^ p. 52, and 
note 3, p. 57). There is, however, no instance on record of the 
' Couvade ' extending to a whole tribe ; nor has the Irish prostra- 
tion anything to do with the private concerns of any particular 
family. It has more probably arisen from some form of ges or 
tabu^ such as are found among all savage nations, and may have 
been connected with religious or funeral ceremonies. Similar 
instances of periodic inactivity are mentioned by Dr. F. B. Jevons 
in his Introduction to the History of Religion^ pp. 65-66 (quoting 
from Gage, A New Survey of the West Indies^ p. 160 ; and Ellis's 
Tshi'Speaking Peoples^ pp. 228, 74). 



ON *THE tAiN b6 CUAILGNE.' 

There existed in Ireland an ancient tradition that the Epic of 
the Tdin had at a very early period been lost, and that the 
sequence of its episodes had been forgotten by the bards. This 
tradition is- preserved in a tale entitled 'The Recovery of the 
Tdin and the conjuring up of Fergus mac R6ich.' Two different 
versions of this legend, one pagan and one Christian, exist. 
According to the first account, which is preserved in the Book of 
Leinster, Senchan Torpeist, chief poet and fUi of Erin about the 
year 598 A.D., called a meeting of the bards and story-tellers of 
Erin to ascertain whether any of them could recollect the whole 
of the Tdin b6 Cuailgne. They confessed that they remembered 
only fragments, and he then sent away two of their body to the 
East to seek an old book called The Cuilmenn^ long since carried 
away out of Ireland, which was said to contain the whole story of 
the Tdin. Setting forth, the young bards arrive, on their journey, 
at the grave of Fergus mac Rdichat Magh Aei, in Roscommon, and, 
seating himself on the tomb, one of them addressed to the spirit 
of Fergus a lay of his own composing. Suddenly he found himself 
enveloped in a heavy mist, and Fergus himself appeared to him in 
all his old dignity and splendour, and, during a space of three 
days, he related to him from beginning to end the Progress of 
the Tiin. This version of the ' Recovery of the Tdin,' which has 



^94 THE CUCHULLIN SAGA 

no Christian details, is found entirely dissociated from the Tiin 
itself in LU. and LL. In more modem mss. the whole tale, or 
a resutnd of it, often forms the introduction to the Epic 

The second, or Christianised version, is preserved in a curious 
old tract called Jmtheacht na troindhcdmht^ i,e. ' The Proceeding 
(or Going forth) of the Great Bardic Institution.' It is contained 
in the Book of Lismore, a MS. of the fourteenth century, and has 
been published, with translation, by Professor Connellan in the 
Transactions of the Ossianic Society ^ vol. v., 1857. According to 
this version, Fergus appears in response to the prayers of the 
chief saints of Ireland collected for this purpose round his tomb. 
St. Cieran of Clonmacnoise, who was present at the recital, is 
said to have written down the tale from beginning to end on a 
fine vellum manufactured from the skin of his favourite dun cow, 
hence called the Leabhar na hUidhre, or Book of the Dun Cow. 
Having offered up thanksgiving the saints retire, and Fergus 
returns to his tomb. 



ON 'THE DEATH OF CUCHULLIN.' 

Lugaid . . . cut off his head. So also in the MS. from which 
our extract of the Battle of Muirthemne is taken, but other 
accounts make Ere son of Cairpre niafer^ the beheader of- 
Cuchullin. 

In a poem ascribed to Dubhthach Ua Lugair, A.D. 430, in 
praise of the Leinstermen, we read of 4he three Red-heads' : — 

' They killed Lugaid, and Conaire, | and Conall. 
Ere, son of Cairpre, famed King of Erinn, | with his multitude 
Stoutly the Fair-haired one cut his head | off Cuchullin.' 

And in a poem by Cinaeth O'Hartigain, A.D. 973, in the Book 
of Ballymote, we read: — ' Erc's Mound, whence is it named? 
It is not difficult to tell. Ere was the son of Cairpre niafer^ who 
was son of Ros ruadhy King of Leinster (Laighen). And it was 
Ere that cut his head oflf CuchuUin.' In revenge for this deed 



ADDITIONAL NOTES 295 

Conall cemach killed Ere, and brought his head to Tara. It is 
said that his sister Acaill, who came out of Ulster to lament her 
brother, grieved so sorely for his death that her heart burst 
within her: she desired that her grave might be made within 
sight of that of her brother. A pathetic lament for her is cited by 
O'Curry, MS. Mat,^ Appendix, p. 514. 

All accounts agree in making CuchuUin die young. 

In the Annals of Tighemach, with a marginal note, 'Ann. Chr. 
39,' is recorded : * Mors Conculainn fortissimi heros Scotorum by 
Lugaidh [mac-na-tri-Con, and by Ere], son of the Son ^Cairpre 
Niafer. vii years was his age when he took arms, xvii when 
he was in pursuit of the Tdin Bo Cuailgne. xxvii when he 
died.' There is evidently some significance here attached to the 
number seven. 

The same age is given to him in the Book of Ballymote, but in 
H. 3, 17, lib. T.c'D., it is said: 'The year of the Tdin was the 
fifty-ninth of Cuchullain's age from the night of his birth to the 
night of his death.' 

There is an evident desire shown throughout the tracts to 
throw an added wonder over Cuchullin's deeds of prowess by 
making him as youthful as possible. 

ON *THE PHANTOM CHARIOT OF 

CUCHULLIN.' 

Loeghaire or Lcughaire^ son of Niall of the Nine Hostages, 
A.D. 429-458. He reigned during thirty years of unexampled 
prosperity. In his reign both Palladius and Patrick came to 
Ireland. He was killed in a mysterious manner by the forces of 
nature while endeavouring to reimpose the Boromean Tribute 
upon Leinster. He was buried standing, in the external rampart 
of Tara, called Rath Laeghaire, clad in armour and facing his 
enemies. (See Ann, Four Af asters^ A.D. 429-458, and notes, and 
Ann, Cion, at same date.) 

His death having been prophesied to occur * between Ere and 
Alba,' he never would go on any naval expedition between these 



296 THE CUCHULLIN SAGA 

two countries ; but he met his death in Leinster between two hills 
of that name. 

Benen or St. Benignus, is spoken of as the 'psalmist of St. 
Patrick' (see Ann. IV, Afas,^ a.d. 448). He became a bishop, and 
succeeded St. Patrick at Armagh in 455, resigned his bishopric 
in 465, and died at Armagh, 468. He was of a Munster family 
and of noble birth, being a descendant of Tadhg mac Cein, 
grandson of Oilioll Olum, King of Munster. The father had been 
baptized by St. Patrick, with his family, near the Boyne, when 
the latter was on his way to Tara ; and the boy, then only seven 
years old, became so attached to St. Patrick that he insisted on 
accompanying him. He was named Benignus from his benign 
disposition. He must have been a man of* learning and a poet, 
for he assisted in the compilation of the celebrated Saltair of 
Caiseal, and perhaps also in drawing up the Book of Rights 
{Leabhar na-gCeart). His life has been preserved by Colgan 
{Trias, Thaum,^ p. 203) ; see also Book of Rights^ ed. O'Donovan, 
PP* 39i 5'> 53) c^c*> ^"d Introd. pp. ii-xi. In the Seiuhus MSr^ 
p. 5, we read that that compilation was made by three kings, three 
bishops, and three poets or men of science. 

Laeghaire, Core, Dairi the hardy, 

Patrick, Benen, Cairnech, the just, 

Rossa, Dubthach, Fergus with science, 

These were the nine pillars of the Senchus m6r. 

Findruine, — The exact nature of this metal is not known, but 
in value it ranked between bronze and silver. In the Feast of 
Briccriu (LU.) Meave says : 'The difference between bronze and 
findruine is between Laeghaire the Victorious and Conall cemach^ 
and the difference again between findruine and red gold is 
between Conall cemach and Cuchullin.' It was used for orna- 
ments such as anklets, bracelets, and brooches ; for ribs of spears 
and for strengthening rods ; for rims of shields, ornamentation 
of helmets or caps, and for chess-boards. It is usually translated 
* white bronze.* 

A wreath of Findruine on his forehead, — The gibne^ a band or 
thread which was tied on the head to keep the hair in its place 



ADDITIONAL NOTES 297 

down on the forehead, was, O'Curry thinks, a badge of office 
peculiar to charioteers. It is often described as part of the dress 
of Laegh. In the Combat of Cuchullin and Ferdia, Mce read : 
' The same charioteer put on his crested, gleaming, quadrangular 
helmet, with a variety of all colours and of all devices, and falling 
over his two shoulders behind him. This was an addition of 
gracefulness to him, and not an incumbrance. He then with his 
hand placed to his forehead the red-yellow gibne^ like a crescent 
of pure gold, of gold that had poured over the edge of the purify- 
ing crucible ; and this he put on in order to distinguish his office 
of charioteer from that of his master.' 

In an ancient glossary in a vellum in T. C. D. O'Curry found 
this explanation of the word: ^Gibne^ that is a thread, as Laegh said 
when giving his description. " I saw," said he, " a man on the 
plain and a gibne of Findruine upon his forehead."' Among the 
gold ornaments in the R.I.A. are many torques of gold, both 
plain and twisted. The Mind was a broader band or circlet of 
gold used by royal personages. 

Spheres of gold. — These were apparently little cups of gold into 
which the hair was gathered at the sides or behind the head. 
They are frequently mentioned. The description in the * Wooing 
of Emer ' is : 'A ring of bronze on his brow prevents the hair from 
falling over his face. Patins of gold on both sides of the back of 
his head to confine his hair.' In the * Sickbed of Cuchullin' Laegh 
describes Labraid, 'of the quick hand at sword,' as having on 
him 'yellow hair of most splendid colour, an apple of gold 
closing it.' 

A winged little cloak, — The cochall was a hood rather than a 
cloak, though it sometimes had lappets coming down to the 
shoulders. It represented the Roman 'cucullus,' and, having 
been adopted by the monks as their especial head-dress, provided 
the modern word *cowl.' In the Battle of Moytura it is said of 
the Dagda, ' He had Cochlini gobach (bill-pointed little Cochalls) 
on his two elbows.' In the 'Sickbed of Cuchullin' it is said that 
' Cuchullin saw the bare shoulder of Eochaid luil through the 
cochall' while he was washing his hands. There is an interesting 
article on the cochall hy Robert Mac Adam in the Ulster Journal of 



298 THE CUCHULLIN SAGA 

Arch,^ vol. ix. p. 294. In the Tiin b6 Cuailgne Laegh is described 
as being clothed in ' a cochall of deerskin,' and a skin cochall has 
been found in a bog in Co. Antrim. It was made of otter-skins 
carefully sewn with animal fibre; one edge of it fitted exactly 
round the neck. The only other mention of leather cloaks besides 
that of Laegh that is known to us is a noted historical instance : 
i.e, when * Murtoch of the Leather Cloaks ' made cochalls of skin 
to preserve his army against the cold. 



APPENDICES 

I. CHART OF THE CONACHAR-CUCHULLIN SAGA 
II. TRACK OF MEAVE'S FORCES ON THE tAiN b6 CUAILGNE 

in. CONSPECTUS OF THE GATHERING OF ULSTER AT THE 
HILL OF SLANE 



I. Tales personal to Conachar. 

(i) Conachar, how generated. 

(2) Conachar's Adventures. 

(3) Conachar's Vision. 

(4) Battle of Rosnaree. 

(5) Conachar's Tragedy. 



At> 



II. 

(6) Cuch 

(7) Cuch 

(8) ScatI 

(9) Cuch 
(10) 

(II) 
(12)^ Erne 

(15) Cuch 

Feas 
(18) Tragj 

(h) 

(20) The 
(31) CucU 







I. 



II. 



<5} 
(6) 



The folhwifig have been published with translations, 

(i) Ed. with English trmnslation by Prof. Kuno Meyer. 

Rev. Ceit.f vol. vi. pp. 174-178. 
(4) Ed. with trans, from two texts by Rev. Edmund Hogan, 
S.J., M.R.I.A. Todd Lecture Series, R.I.A , iSg-a. 
O'Curry's MS, Mai.^ Appendix clvi. pp. 637-643. 
Ed. with Fr. trans, by M. Louis Duvau. Rtv, Celt,^ 
vol. ix. pp. 1-13. English rendering in Vn«ife 0/Bmn. 
vol. ii.. by Mr. Alfrra Nutt. See also windisch ana 
Stokes Irisch* Texit^ vol. i. pp. 134*1431 for text, intro- 
duction, and notes, 
(to) Atlantitf vol. i. pp. 370-393, and vol. ii. pp. 98-114. 
English trans, by E. O'Curry. Gilbert's Fact. o/Nat, 
MSS. of /rt/amff part i. plates xxxviL and xxxviii., 
and Appendix iv. part ii. English trans, by Prof. B. 
0'Loone]|r. See also irische TexU, vol. L pp. 19^^-134, 
for text, introduction, and notes. A Fr. trans, will be 
found in M. D'Arbois de Jubainville's Epopit CtlUqne 
€H trlandt, 
(11) Text from Bodleian MS. Rawl. B. 519, ed. with 
English trans, by Prof. Kuno Meyer. Rtv, Celt,, 
yt\, xi. pp. 443-453, and English trans, from LU. ana 



MS. Stows 99^1 

(14) Ed. with text 

Todd Lecture Se 

(16) Ed. with tnuM. I 

vol. viiL 

(17) A, A Fr. trans. ai 

CE^opit CeM^ 
Iritche Texie^ \ 
and notes witbov 
B, Feast of Bf 
Dull Dermait. 
164-916.' Bd. b| 
and notes. 

(18) Metrical renderii 

lifmesp/iriskPi 

(91) Ed. with tnuit. 
Kilktnn^f A 
in. (t«) Ed. with mm. 
vol. i. p. 9 
(93) Ed. with 

Texte^ vol ^ pa(^ 



APPENDIX II 

TRACK OF MEAVE'S FORCES ON THE tAiN 
b6 CUAILGNE. {See Map.) 

Sect. (4) Day i. Start from Rath Cniachan, camp at Ciiil silinne 

(<to the direction S.W. of Kells'). 

Sect. (6) Day 2. They make a long detour led by Fergus, and find 

themselves at night again at CM siiinne, 

n (7) » 3- Advance to Monecoltan. On the same day 

Cuchullin and his father meet at Ardcullin, and 
Cuchullin leaves a collar on the pillar stone. 
The men of Erin find it. They advance by 
sieacht na gearbat^ * where the lesser Partry is,* 
and spend the night before royal Kells. 

99 (vi) » 4* Cuchullin returns from his tryst at Tara and 

meets the host near Kilmore, * northwards from 
Knowth,* * to-day called Athgowla': formerly 
Athgrenncha, and kills the advanced guard. 
He cuts the forked pole. (Interlude of 
Cuchullin's boy deeds.) 

99 (30) 99 5* They march past Corann eastwards across the 

mountain (LU. says Magh Mucceda).^ 

99 (31) 99 6* Death of the sons of Garach at the ford of 

Ardkianacht. 
Death of Lethan at the ford on the Nith in 

Conaille-Muirthemne. 
Meave's pet squirrel killed. 

> This is a mistake : both Corann and Magh M acceda are in Connacht, 
and the troops at this time were close to Conaille-Muirthemne. 

801 



302 THE CUCHULLIN SAGA 

Sect. (35) Day 7. The four great provinces march, fall on Magh 

Breagh and Magh Muirthemne and harry them. 
Fergus warns them of CuchuUin's approach. 
On the same day the Donn comes into the land 
of Mairgen. The Morrigu discourses to him 
'from the pillar stone in Tara of Cuailgne,' and 
the Bull withdraws into SlieveguUion. 

» (3^) M ^* '^^^ ^^^ ^^ ^^^^^ P"^^ ^^^^ ^^^ rocky parts of 

Conaille-Muirthemne. Locha is killed. 

» (39) }} 9 The host advances to G/tiis Chruinn. Uala is 

swept away in the torrent. Cuchullin hangs 
upon their rear and kills a hundred. The host 
skirts along the swollen stream to its source. 
Meave has the 'Gap of Ulster* cut for her pas- 
sage. They pitch at Mat AiUoin^ formerly 
called glenn tdil or liasa liac. They pass on to 
the R. Seochair, or glais gadratk. They secure 
themselves at druim ^n in Conaille of Muir- 
themne. 

n (40) n lo* ^^ brandishes his spear and a hundred die of 

fright. They encamp at druim hi for three 
nights. Fiacra mac Firaba offers terms to 
Cuchullin on Meave's behalf. 

)} (43) )9 14* Meave confers with Cuchullin at Glenn Fochdine. 

Cu nightly kills a hundred. 

f> (44) » >5* During the night there has been a heavy fall of 

snow. Mac Roth's first and second embassage. 
Meave's conference with Fergus. 

n (46) )9 i^- The embassage of Fergus. Etarchomal is slain, 
n (49) » 17* Natchrantal's advance on Cuchullin. 
„ „ „ 18. Natchrantal's combat and death. 

M (5O I) 19* Meave with a third part of her troops pursues 

her way northward to Dunseverick. Cuchullin 
hangs about them and kills several. Then he 
returns southward to protect his own country, 
and kills twenty of Meave's advanced guard. 
Buic mac Bainblai is discovered by him driving 
the Donn out of Glensamasc in SlieveguUion. 



APPENDIX II 303 

Cu kills him at Ath Buidhe in Fir Rois, but 
the Bull escapes to Meave's camp. 
Meave kills Finnmore, wife of Celtchar mac 
Uitechar, and harries Dunseverick. 

Here a fortnight (or a month) elapses.' During this time the 
three divisions of Meave*s army reunite and encamp. The Bull 
is driven into a strait pass and kept there. He tramples his 
keeper Forgaman to death. Cu kills Rec the Jester at dth 
talachs^t^ hence called namsruth. 

Sect (54). CAr mac Dal&th's death. 

Deaths of Liath mac Dabro, Srubdaire mac Fedach, 
and More. 

yy (55)* Cuchullin sends a message to Lugaid mac N6is and 
other friends in Meave's camp. The same day 
Ferbaeth mac Firbennach falls by him. 

,) ($6). Lugaid entreats Cuchullin for his brother Lairin mac 
Ndis. 
Lairin fights with XTuchuUin and gets a * hiding.' 

„ (57). The Morrigu meets Cuchullin and talks with him. 

Cuchullin spends a week at dth grencha ; a hundred 
fall daily by his hand. Long mac Emonis is killed. 

If (5^)* Cuchullin bedaubs himself a beard, and Ldch 
Mor mac Mofebis goes out to meet him. The 
Morrigu attempts to overthrow Cuchullin. L6ch 
Mor is killed with the g<u duiga. In great dejec- 
tion Cu sends Laegh to Ulster for help. 

n (59)* ^u kills Meave's three wizards and three witches. 
He sets upon the host in general from Delga to the 
southward. The Morrigu is healed. 

„ (61). Meave sends a hundred against him. He kills them 
at dth crS. 

„ (62). The men of Erin secure themselves at the brislech 
mdr in Magh Muirthemne, but send away their 
kine and captives southward. At evening Cuchullin 
posted himself at ' the grave that is in the Lerga,* 

1 Henceforward the epochs of time become more perplexing. We shall 
therefore notify the Sections only. 



304 THE CUCHULLIN SAGA 

and uttered his ' hero's call/ at which a hundred die 
of pure fright. Lugh mac Ethlenn visits Cu, and 
watches for three days and three nights while 
Cuchullin sleeps.^ 

Sect (65). The boy-corps from Emania come down and deliver 

three battles for Cuchullin. They with their captain 
FoUaman are utterly destroyed. 

„ (66). Cuchullin awakens and avenges the slaughter of the 
boy-corps. In the great fight which ensues he 
destroys six score and ten kings, and one-third of 
the men of Erin. 

„ (71). He shows himself in his beauty to the women. 

Dubtach, for his jealousy, gets a kick from Fergus. 

„ (73). Angus, son of Aenllimh gdibhe^ an Ulster warrior 
attacks the host, but is slain. FiachsL Jialddna of 
Ulster and Docha mac Magach commit shooting- 
errors. Tamhan the jester, dressed in Ailell's 
crown, falls by a sling-stone. 

. „ (76). The host of Meave pitch by the great stone in the 
Land of Ross. Fergus goes out to fight with 
Cuchullin, and the champion consents to fly before 
him on condition that Fergus will do the same in 
the final battle of the Tdin. 

„ (77). Ferchft hingsechy an outlaw of Connacht, and twelve 
with him, come from Magh Aei to attack Cuchullin ; 
they fall. 

„ (78). Calatin and his twenty-seven sons attack Cuchullin. 
Fiacha mac Firaba interferes to help him, and Cii 
kills them all at dth iarrainn (westward of Ardee). 
He follows Glas mac Delga to Meave's tent. 

)i (79)* Combat of Ferdia and Cuchullin at dth Firdiadh 
(Ardee). 

„ (So). Cuchullin, grievously wounded, is comforted by the 

1 Here for the first time it is mentioned that Cuchullin bad been holding in 
check the four great provinces of Erin, from the Monday before Samhain to 
the Wednesday next after imbolc — i.e. from November ist to February ist 
(St. Bridget's festival). This is afterwards several times repeated. 



APPENDIX II 30s 

men of Ulster. He bathes his wounds in the rivers 
of Conaille-Muirthenine. Ferdia is buried. 

Sect. (81). Ceithem mac Fin tan comes from Line in the north, 

across Slievefuad, to attack the host. He is healed 

„ (84). of his wounds by a * marrow-bath/ rushes again 
into battle, and is slain. 

„ (87). Finntan avenges the death of his son. 

„ (88). Menn More from the Boyne fights. He and the host 
consent to fall back. 

„ (89). Reochaid comes to fight, but is conciliated by Finna- 
bair. 

„ (90). The aged warrior Iliach hurls stones upon the men 

of Erin. 
„ (91). The charioteers* attack. 

„ (92). The host is overtaken by Amargin at Taillte, and 
driven north-west before him. They fall back a 
day's march to the northward. 

)} (93)* Sualtach (or Sualtaim) gives warning to Ulster. He 
is killed. 

n (96)'('02). During the Gathering of the men of Ulster the 
men of Erin camp at Slane [t.e, Sleamhain] in West 
Meath. Mac Roth makes three reports. 

„ „ The hosting of the Ultonians is on the Hill of Sleam- 
hain, where Conachar pitches his tent. 

If (105)* I'hc Morrigu rouses Ulster to battle. 

„ (107). The great final Battles of the T^in b6 Cuailgne at 
G&irech and Ilgiirech. 

„ (113). Ulster is routed and thrice driven back northwards. 

„ (117). Cuchullin re-enters the battle. Fergus, as he had 
engaged to do, falls back before him, and the men 
of Erin, perceiving this, take to flight. Meave 
sends the Brown Bull to Cruachan. 

„ (120). The routed army re-cross the Shannon at Athmore, 
now Athlone. 

„ (124). They are mustered to Cruachan, where the Battle of 
the Bulls takes place. 

„ ( 1 28X130). The White-horned being killed, the Brown Bull 
re-enters the Land of Cualigne, and there falls dead. 

U 



3o6 



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INDEX 



Aei. See Magh Aei. 

Aife, mother of Conlaech, xxxi., 7a, 

77-79 and n.t x86, x88. 

warriors of, 77-78. 

Ailell or Oilioll of Connacht, liii., 

231; 'bolster conversation/ xii- 

114; character of, 113; his canip, 

125 ; observes Ulster, 207-218. 
Ainle, son of Usnach, 24, 41, 44. 
Alba« See Scotland. 
Allen (Almhain), 94. 
Amargin, 15, 19, 20, 66, 202, 214. 
Angus na Brugh, Ivi., 15. 
Annals of Clonmacnois, quoted, li., 

liv. 
of the Four Masters, quoted, 

1., li., liii. 

of Tighemach, quoted, Hi. 

'Appearance of the Morrigu to Cu- 

cnullin/ Tdin bd Regamna^ 102- 

107. 
Ardan, son of Usnach, 24, 30, 44. 
Ardcullin, 127, 128. 
Ardee {Atk Firdiadh) Ferdia's Ford. 

185, 187. 
Armagh {flrd Macha) formerly Rath 

Sdtlenn or Ard na Sailech^ xxi., 

35. 248. 
Art, King of Tara, xxxi. 
Arthurian Epic, xiii. ; compared, 

xxviii., xxxiv., deficient in humour, 

xlvi. 

woman in, xlvi. 

Assaroe, es Aedha ruaidh, 156. 
Athaime, 86, 87. Add. Note, p. 291. 
Athboy [dih buid/ie), 'yellow ford.' 

293. 
Aih da Ferta, 104. 
Ath Firdiadh. See Ardee. 
Ath Garach, 15. 

Athgowla'(^M-/a^A/a), 131, 132. 
Ath I^than, 15. 
Athlone (dth iuain), 222, 223, 226. 



Atkinson, Prof., quoted, xxxvi., 
xxxvii., statements criticised, 
xxxviil.-xlix. 



Badb, 102, 105 n., 107 n., 241, 

247. 
'Baile the Sweet-spoken' {Seil Baili 

BinnbMaig), tale of, quoted, xxx. 

and n. 
Ballads, English, xxx. 
Bards, 98, 215, 239; system of, xv.; 

rules for, xviii.; their work criti- 
cised, xxxvi. -xL -^ 
Bardic circuits, 87, 88, 94; Add. 

Note, p. 291. 
' Bargain of the Strong Man ' (Cen- 

nach IndRilanado), quoted, xxvii. . 
' aittle of Map^h Rath,^ quoted, xl. 
' Battle of Muirthemne' \Brisleck mdr 

maige MuirihemneY quoted, Ixi. 

236-240 ; copies existing, xxxv. 
Bat tie- wheels, 2x7. 
Benen or St. Benignus, 276 and ir.; 

Add. Note, p. 296. 
Beowulf, Ixv. 
Birds, 15, 16, 217 ; hunting of, 15 ; 

human lieings (women) changed 

into, 17, 82, 105, 260 and n. ; chained 

together. 16. 
Black Sainglend (see DHbhsaighlenn), 
Blai briugu, ' the Hospitaller, 15, 18, 

19. 66. 
Blathnait. 152, 284 n, 
Bodb, Ixxii. 
Book of the Dun (see Leabkar na 

hUidhre), 
Book of Rights {Leabhar na nCeari), 

quoted, Ixxiv. 
Borrnch, son of Anntc, 28, ^t. 
Boy-corps(ira<7<:r(r7</A)of Emain Macha, 

»35-i39. >44» '72 and »-. i73. 'T^. 
Boyne (Bifinne), R., 15, 20 »., 84. 

809 



3«o 



THE CUCHULLIN SAGA 



Bray (hfagh Breaj^h, Lat. Bregia), 69, 
70, 71, 148, 256, a8o : harried, 157 ; 
kine of, 80. 

Briccriu, 15, 16, 17, aSi n, ; death of, 
234. 

Bridge of the Cliff, 75 ; Add. Note, 
p. 291. 

BrugH nd Bdinne, 6, i^, 67, 148. 

Brown Bull i^Donn) of Cuailgne— re- 
incarnation of, xxiii.; mythological 
aspect of, Ixxi., Ixxiii.-lxxiv. ; de- 
scription of, Ixxi. -Ixxi ii., 157; be- 
longs to Daire, 106, 115-119; the 
Morrigu warns him, 157; driven 
westward, 163-164, 222 223 ; return 
of, 219, 225-227 ; final battle of, 
Ixxii., 224-227. 

' Bruidben d& Choga,' tale of, quoted, 
247 «. 

'Bruidben d& Derga,' tale of, xvi., 
XX., 56, 131, 231; copies existing, 

XXXV. 

Buan, wife of Mesgegra, 93; death 

of, 94. 
Buic mac Bainblai, 163. 
Buinne, son of Fergus, 28, 33, 35, 40. 
Bull, the, in mythology, lxix.-lxxvii. 

Cainbilb's Harps, 156, 157 and n. 
Cairpre niafer, king ofTara, 68, iia, 

113, 231, 252. 
Calatin, Sons of, 236, 239-243, 247, 

252, 254 ; Cuchullin's fight with, 

Ixiv., Ixv., 182-186. 
Caldrons, 284 and ». 
Cameron, Dr. Alexander, 22. 
Camiichael, Mr. A., 22. 
Cathbad, 23, 25, 44, 48, 237-249; 

genealogy of Iv. ; called father to 
onachar, li.. Hi., ^-5; spells of, 
44, 215 ; curses Emam Macha, 48 ; 
teacher of CuchuUin, 67, 142-14^. 

Cathbarr, helmet of Manannan, Ivii. 

Ceiihem mac Fintan, 199. 

Celtchar mac Uitechar, xxiii., 122. 
206, 207, 214 ; feats of, 59. 

Cennberraidhe, 260. 

Cet, son of Magach, 267 and n., 269. 

Chariots, 15, x6, 155, 158, 187; Cu- 
chullin's, description of, 61, 62 and 
n. , 277 ; Conachar's, description of, 
98, 144, 149; Meave's, iao-121, 132 
and «.; Fergus", 133 ; Scythed, 174, 
176 and n. ; Iliacb's, 20a 

Charms, 145. 



Chess or draught boards {cennckaim 
or • Fair-head ') of Conachar, 37 and 

« . ^9. 4«. 59- 

Christian interpolations, 248 and »., 
271 and ». 

Christianity, influence of, in tales, xv., 
xvi., xxi. 

Cieran, St., xvi. ; Add. Note, p. 294. 

Clane, Path of \casdn claenaak\ 90, 
92. 

Qassic literature, compared, xxxii., 
xliii. 

Cloak, winged (cocAail), 63, 278 and 
n.; Add. Note. p. 297. 

Cdi'r Anmann ' Fitness of names,' 
quoted, xxiii. and »., 169 n. 

' Colloquy with the ancients ' {Agal- 
lamh na setufrach), xii. 

Colum Cille, xvi. 

Conaille - Muirtbemne. See Muir- 
themnc. Plain of. 

Conaire, son of Ederscel, lii., 231. 

Conachar or Conchobhar, date of 
synchronised with that of our Lord, 
xxi., 3, 286 and m., 287 ; genesis of, 
xxii., xxiii.; parentage of, 1., li., 
3, 4 ; prosperity of, 9- 11 ; seeks 
r)echtire, 15-17; rears Cuchullin, 
18, 19, 65; description of, 10, 69 
and »., 268; rears Deirdre, 23; 
sends for Naisi, 25-53 ; learns feats, 
71, 72; debility of, 122, 203-205, 
209; hosting of, 205-209, 211-2x8 ; 
corps of. 213; his man-fold, 210- 
211; tragical death of, xxiv., 267- 
272. 

Conchobhar adhradhrvadh^ li. 

Conall cemach, * The Victorious,' 90, 

»4S-i47. 237 «n^ «•. 238; foster- 
brother to Cuchullin, 18, 19, 67 ; 
re-incarnation of, xxiii. ; contest for 
superiority, xxvi. , 267 ; chivalry of, 
xliv., 86, 92, 261-263 ; sent for Naisi, 
27 ; slays Illann, 42, 43 ; feats of, 
59. 70, 71 ; ' cross-eyed,* 93 ; corps 
of, 216 ; combat with serpents, 283 
If. 

Conlaech or Conia, son of Cuchullin, 
tragedy of, xxxL, 79 and », 167 xr. 

Corann, 155. 

Corniac conloingeas, son of Conachar, 
49, 125, 132, 207, 210. 224; His 
corps described, 119-120; describes 
Cuchullin, 138-142. 

Cows, in Mythology, Ixix., Ixxiv. 



INDEX 



311 



Coronet, {mind) Meave's, 158. 

Cruachan, Rath or Rath Croghan, 
49, III, 118. lao, 223, 226 and n. 

Cruachan, SM of, 100, 107. 

Crundchu mac Agnoman, 97-99. 

Cuailgne, Ixxii., 20 »., 49, xic. 207 ; 
hills of {benna Cuailgne)^ 220. 

Ctialgai, 89 and n., 220 and n. 

Cuchullin or Ci!ichulainn, education 
of, xviii., 18-20, 66-67, 70-80; 
genesis of, xxii. ; an avatar of Lu^h, 
xxiii., Iv.-Ix., 67 and n. ; description 
of, Lxiii., 59, 6211., 123, 131, 154, 
187, 277; youth of, Ix., 59, 134, 
159, 165; learned in druidism, 66, 
67; feats of, 59, 63, 65, 70, 150, 
151, 161, 192, 256, 278-279, 282- 
285 ; paroxysm of, Ixi. , 75, 160, 162, 
174-176 ; kills his son, xxxi., 79 »., 
167 »., 196 ; not affected by the Cess 
ndiden Olad, 100; visited by the 
Morrigu, 102-107, 164-165 ; his boy- 
deeds, 135-154; his wounds, 198, 
203, 218 ; Instruction to Lugaid, 
232-234 ; death of, xxi., xxviil , 260 ; 
appearance to LAegaire, 275-287. 

Cuchullin Saga, preservation of, by 
monks, xv. ; changes in, xvii., xxi., 
xxiv., suppressions in, xxii. ; addi- 
tions to, x.xiv., XXV. ; copies of tales 
existing, xxxiv. , xxxv. ; continuity 
of, xxxv. ; style of. xx., xxxv, ; hum- 
our and tenderness of, xliii.-I. ; 
not historic, 1. ; growth of, Ixviii. 

Cuilenn, Isle of, 33. 

Culann, 138-139. 

Cuil silinne, 125, 127. 

CAr mac Dalfith, death of, 164. 

Cur6i mac Daire, xxvii., 202, 231, 
252, 284 n. 

Cuscraidh menn Afacka, son of Con- 
achar, 93, 122, 213. 

Dalaradia, 207. 

D'Arbois de Jubainville, M., quoted. 

xxxv., XX.XVL, 86, 1x0, 239 n. 
•Debility of ihc Ultonians* (Cess 

n&iden (/lad), barbarism of, xxv.. 

xliii ; tale of, 96-100, 122, 203-205. 

209. 238 ; Add. Note. p. 292. 
Dechtire, mother of Cuchullin, 15, 

17, 18, 67, 246; called a goddess, 

Ivi. 
Deirdrc, character of, xlvii. ; lament 

of, 22 ; her elopement with Naisi, 



24, 25 ; return to Erin, 31-37 ; lays 

of, 45-48. 50 ; death of, 53. 
Dervorgil, daughter of Ruad, xxxii., 

Hi., 81-82 and ff. 
Dewy-Red, Conall's horse, 262, 263. 
' Dinnsenchas,' xii. 
' Dispute of the swineherds* {CAo^Aur 

in da tnnccida), quoted, xxiii. 
Distorted, The {riasiradh), name 

applied to Cuchullin, Ixi-lxiii., 75 

and »., 174-176, 180. 
Ddche mac Mft^ch, 200-201. 
Donall the Soldierly, 70-72. 
Donn. See Brown Bull of Cuailgne. 
Domolla, Ixi., 72. 
Druids or Magicians, 25, 44, 66, 98, 

I57i 168, 270, 271 ; spells of, 44, 67, 

2x5 ; foreknowledge of, 120 and n, ; 

female, X21-124, 168. (Su Cath- 

bad.) 
Dubhsaighlenn^ description of, 62, 

230, 240, 259, 277, 278. 
Dubhtach dael Uladk^ 49, 179, 207. 
Dublin {Ath ctiath), 90. 
Dundalk (DUn Delgan), 20 n., 35, 

242. 
Dunseverick (Z>a/it Sobhairce), 163. 
Duvau, M. Louis, 14. 



Em A IN Macha (lat. Emania, Navan 
Fort), xxi., Ixxvii., 10, 15, 17, 19, 
69, 70, 84, 232, 244 ; three Halb of, 
xlii. , 36 and n. , 56 and n. , 58, 220, 
240, 24 q, 263 ; feasts of, 23, 25, 28 ; 
assemblies of, 98, 99; curse upon, 
48, 49 ; warder of, 59 ; visions or, 72, 
245 ; name given, 99 and n. 

Emer, character of, xlviii., xlix., 60, 
6x, 64, 237, 239, 245, 248. 

Eochu bairche^ 74. 

^hiiidfeidhleach, 1.. liii., xix. 

Echaid 'yellow-heel* {sdlbuide), 4, 
X99. 

Eoghan, son of Durthacht, 44 »., 52, 
53, 122, 2x4. 

Ere, son of Cairpre, 206, 2x6-2x7, 236, 
255. 258, 260; Add. Note, pp. 294- 
29 c 

Ess knchenn, sons of, 78, 79. 

Etaine, xlvi. 

Etarchomal, death of, i6x. 

FACinn A /a/AacA, l.-lii., 3, xo, 23. 
• Feast of Briccriu ' {F/ed Bricrenn)^ 
tone of, XXV., incidents in, xxvi. 



3ia 



THE CUCHULLIN SAGA 



Feast of Bridget, Ixiv., 171, and ». 

Feats of championship. 59, 65, 70, 71, 
80 and »., 188-192, 278-279. 

Fedlimid, son of £HiU, 23. 

Feidelm, the seer, 121-12^. 

Feidelm ndckruthack^ wife of Laeg- 
2ix^buadack^ 128. 

Ferhaeth, death of. 164. 

Fercenne, the Poet, 25, 215, 238. 

Ferdia, son of Danmn. combat of, 
xliii., 186-198: with Scathach, 75, 
188. 196; hord of. 185. 187. 

Fergus mac Leide. li. and m., 213. 

Fergus mnc R6ich. relates the Tdin, 
xvi. and Add. Note, p. 293 ; descrip* 
tion of, II and «r., 18; driven from 
Ulster, liii., 8-11, 49; leads the 
Co'inach' troops, 118, 125-127, 208; 
combats, 180-182, 222 ; guides the 
sons of Usn>«ch, 28-33; I'ears Cu- 
chullin, 18, 66 ; sword of, 181, 220- 
231 ; galley of, a8 n, 

Frrguson, Sir Samuel, 31, 45 n., 

347 «. 
Fiacua mac Firaba relates Cuchullin's 

' boy-deeds,' 14a ; aids CuchuUin, 

183-185 ; proposes terms, 158. 
Fiacha and Fiachna, sons of Con- 

achar, 41, 206, 215. 
Fiachna mac Daire, Ixxii., 105, 115- 

119. 
Fial. daughter of Forgall, 68. 
Findntine, 278 ; Add. Note, p. 296. 
Finghin, the leech. 215, 216. 270. 
Finn mac Cumhaill. xvii. 
Finn mac (lorman, Bishop of Kil- 

dare, xv.. 227. 
Finn mac Rosa ruad, 112, 113, 231. 
Finnbennach. See White-horned. 
Finnchad mac Troiglethan arouses 

Ulster. 205. 
Finnabair, daughter of Meave, 125, 

165, 186, 196 ; death of, 200. 
Finnchoem, mother of Conall, 18 and 

M., ao, 67. 
Finntan mac Niall, 199. 
Fir Ardai, 15. 

Fir Rois. 5. 15. x8o. 268. 272. 
Flidais, 125 and n. 
FoUaman, son of Conachar, 136, 172, 

«73- 
Fomori, xxxii.. 81 and n., 82, 193. 

Fords of combat. 145-147. I49andii., 

151. 187. 190, 191. 

Forgall monack, ' the Wily.' father of 



Emer. 60 and »., 70. 72. 83; de- 
scription of. 65. 
Forgaman, death of, 163. 164. 

Gae bulgOt 80. 123. 167 and »., 192, 

194. I95* 196. 085 and m. 
Gaidoz. Prof., quoted. 74 «i. 
Gailiana, 125 and m., 126, 127, 21X. 
GAirech and Ilg&irech. 181 and ».. 

219, 221. 236. 
Garach, sons of, 156. 
Gauls, wine of, 70 and m, 
Gessa or * tabus. See Prohibitions. 
Genann. 238-239. 
Gibme (wreath or fillet). 63, 278, Add. 

Note, pp. 296-297. 
Glas mac Delga. 182. 185, 186. 
GlondAth, ' the ford of deeds.' 83. 
Goblins (bocdmuhst baudMachSt geniti 

g/indi), i7oand«i., 187, 193, 241. 
Godkin. Mr . quoted, xi. 
Gods. 106. 169. 253 and m. 
Grainne, elopement of, xxxix., xlvi. 
Grellach Dolluid, 105. 
Grimm's Teutonic Mythology quoted, 

15 «• . »8^ ». 
Grey of Macha {Hath Macka\ 204- 

205. 239 and «.. 240. 244, 253. 

260; description of, 61, 277-278; 

departure or, 258. 

Hair. Cuchullin's, Ixiii., 178. 255. 

Handstones. 146. 

Healing, professors of, 190, 198, 215 

and If., 27a 
Helmets, Iviii. 
Hero's cidl, 170, i8|4« 
light [ion gaiU), 175. 255 and 

»., 26a 
Howth {Benn Edair), siege of, 86- 

94- 
Hurling. 136. 

Hyde, Dr. Douglas, xlvii., 22. 

ILIACH, 200-20I. 

Illann, son of Fergus, 28, 33, 35, 36, 

40-43- . . 
Indra, Ixxi., Ixxv. 

* Intoxication of the Ultonians' {Afes- 
ca Ulad) quoted, Ix. 

Introductory tales to the T. B. C. 
(remscila)^ xxv., 56, 102. 

Ireland, isolation of, xiii. ; indepen- 
dence of her literature, xxvi. ; 
divided into five provinces, p. 1., li. 



INDEX 



3»3 



Iseult, XXX., xlvi. 

lubar, son of Rianrabar, 144-153. 

lubnicfa, galley of Fergus, 38 and n, 

Jacobs, Mr. Joseph, aa. 
Javdins, 183, 184. 
Jesters, 164, a68 and n, 

Kblls (CenanMus)t 129. 

Kennings, 69 n, ; Add. Note, p. 

389. 
« Kilhwch and Olwen,' xii. 
Krishna, Ixxv., and n, 
Knowth (Cnodhba) 131, 148. 

Leahhar na hUidhre, or Book of the 
Dun Cow. where written, xv. ; 
quoted, 14, 330. 

Laegh, son of Riangabar, 60, 69, 103, 
174. 040, 043, 044, a53 ! description 
of, 63, 276 - 378 ; estimates the 
host, 130, 131 ; arouses Ulster, 167, 
319 ; death of, 357. 

Laeghaire, King, xvi., xvii., xxii., 375- 
387; Add. Note, p. 395. 

buadach^ 'The Triumphant.' con- 
test for superiority, xxvi. , 367 ; feats 
of. 59. 7>-7a, aoo, 301, 314. 

Lairin mac N6is, death of, 164. 

Land ox crescent of gold, 1^8 n. 

Leinster (Laighin), men of, 87, 89. 

Book of, where transcribed, xv., 

227; quoted, xxii., 3, 8, 22, 53 m.. 
56, 80, no, 352; catalogue of 
romances in, xxxix., 56. 

Lcthan killed, 156. 

Levarcham, Ixi., 34, 37, 38, 89 and 
n„ iM, 354. 

Liaih MtuMa. (Set Grey of Macha. ) 

Liffey, River {IJ/e), 361. 

Local deities, 951 h, 

L6ch m6r, 75, 105. 

Loch Cuan. 5/# Strangford Loch. 

Echtra. 146, 147. 

Etive, 37. 

Loclia kilkxl, I57-I5*. 

Lugaid, son of Curoi mac Daire, liii., 
236, ajja, •57, «6o-a63; combat 
with Conall, xliv. 

mao Nols, liii.. 76 and «.. 77- , 

fw der/f, or riabk nDearg 'of 

the Red Htripes,' II., Uli ajo. 287, 
Add« Note p. 394; distinct from 
Lugaid mac Noli, liii; marries 



Dervorg[il, Hi., 83 and n,\ dies of 
grief, hi. and m.; instructed by 
Cuchullin, 332-234. 

Lugh mac Ethlenn {lam^ada\ 9, 15, 
16 »., 67 yf., 131 ; re-mcamations, 
xxiii., Ivi.-lx.; the Sun-god, Ivit- 
lix.; guardian of Cuchullin, Ivi., 
Ixiv. , 177 ; gardens of (Luglockta 
Logo), 60. 64, 67. 

Long nmc Emonis, death of, 165. 

Love- tales, xlvi.-xlix. 

Lusk (Lusca), Druidhen ForgaiU 
monach, 60 if. 



Mabinogion. quoted, lix.' and «i. 

Macha, character of, xlix. ; description 
of, 97 ; tale of, 97-100, 102. 

Mac Koth. chief herald, sent to Daire, 
115 ; Embassage to Cuchullin, 159 ; 
second do., 160; Scouting Mission, 
207-208 ; second do. , 909 ; third 
do. and report, 111-218. 

Maga, daughter of Angus, Iv. 

Magach, sons of, X19. 

Magh AH, 115, 120 and m., 907 ; fords 
of, x3o; Add. Note. p. 993. 

Rrcagh. Ste Bray. 

Muirthemne. Set Muirtlieninn, 

Plain of. 

Maine Redhand, 44, 45. 

Maine, tribes of, x 10, 29<. 

Malory's Morte d Arthur ^ quotml, 
xxix. and »., 254 n. 

Manannan mac Lir, Ivil., Ixvl, ; 
sword of. 44. 

Marriage customs, 68 an<l m. 

Marrow-messes, X09 m., 90t. 

Mata of Murrisk, Iv. 1 13. 

Meadhall {Teach Miodhehuaria) of 
Tara, 57 ; Add. Note, p. 989. 

Meave {Medhbh), Queen of Connacht, 
liii., IX, 49, III, 933, 931; bolster- 
conversation of, 111-114; owner of 
the ' White-homed,' Ixxi.; inspects 
the camp, 135; conference with 
Cuchullin, 159; urges Ferdia to 
fight, xliii., 186; urges Fergus to 
fight, 180-183 ; Queen Mab, liv. 

Menu More, son of Salcholgan, 199, 

Mesocadh, son of Amargin, 89. 
Mesgegra, King of Leinster, 86, 90, 

91 ; death of, 93 ; brain-ball of, 94 

and m,t 367. 



314 



THE CUCHULLIN SAGA 



Meyer, Professor Kuno, quoted, a, 

53«-t 5^. 17a «., 268ii. 
^find or diadem of gold, 158 and n. 
Missive weapons, 188. 

shields, 189 and n., 904-205. 

Mitra, Ixxv. 

Mongan, xvi. 

Monremar, xxvii. 

Morann, 19, 20, 271. 

Morrigu, last appearance of, 103-107 ; 

dialogues with CuchuUin, 164-165, 

168-169; breaks his chariot, 254; 

transformed into a bird, 105; 

Garden of, 64. 
Muirthemne, Plain of {^Magk Muir- 

themne)^ 20 and ii., 135, 156, 280; 

harried, 157, 204, 242; healing 

streams in, 198 ; Bnslech Mdr in. 

169-180, 227-249 ; Assembly of, 52 ; 

Corp>s of, 218. 
Munremar, 214. 
Mythology, Irish, liv.-lxxvii. 

Naas {Nds), 90. 

Naisi, son of Usnach, xlvii ; tale of, 

24-75 5 death of, 44, 45. . 
Natchrantal, death of, 162, 163. 
Nachtan Sccine, sons of, 148-151. 
Needlework, 60, 61. 
Nessa, mother of Conachar, 3, 9 ; her 

name changed, 4, 5. 
Niamh, daughter of Celtchar, wife of 

Conall, 237, 243, 253. 
Nibelungen, xiii. 
Norse mythology, influence of, xxxiii. ; 

women of, xlvii. 
Nuada of the Silver Hand, Iviii. 
Nutt. Mr. Alfred, quoted, xxiii. m., 

xxxi If. , 9, 96. 

O'Beirne Crowe, quoted, 274. 279 

M., 286 n. 
O'Curry, Eugene, quoted, xxiv, 230. 
Manntrs and Customs, quoted. 

no, 125 M., 167 »., 174 n., 176 M., 

177 M., X86, 199 n., 2X2 M, 

AfS. Materials of Irish History, 

quoted. 8, ixo, 266. 
O' Flaherty's Ogygia, quoted, 1i and «., 

lii. 
O'Flanagan, 22, 48 »., 53. 
Ogham writing, 128, 129. 131. 148. 
O'Grady, Standish Hayes, no, 274, 

278 n. , 279 ft. 



O'Looney, Brian, iia 

Orlam, son of Meave, 155 ; killed by 

Cuchullin, 156. 
Ossian, xvi. ; poems of, xvii. 
Ossianic tales, xvii; |>opularity of, 

XX. ; character of, xxxiii. ; not noticed 

in list of Prime Stories in LL., 

xxxix. 

Patrick, St., xvi,, xxil, 274-287. 
Patriotism, xi., xii. 
Perilous Glen, 74. 

Pillar-stones, 128-129, 148, 162, 959. 
Plain of Ill-luck, 74. 
Plate or gong of Silver, 58. 
Ponsinet, M. Louis, quoted, 22. 
Prohibitions (gessa), 32 and n., 133, 

136, 166 and M. ; Cuchullin's, Ixvi., 

Ixxvii., 238, 243 ; King of Ulster's, 

Ixxiv. 
Proverbs quoted, xlv., 59, 107 and »., 

247 and »., 25^ and m., 260, 26^. 
Provinces, division of Ireland mto 

five, I., 253 «. 

Queens, 239, 254, 263. 

Rabn and Rae, historians of the 

Raid, 158. 
RAma, Ixxv. 

Rathlin Island iKechlainn), lii.. 33 n. 
Rath Croghan (see CruacAan, rdth). 
Rec, death of. 164. 
Red Branch, Champions of, li., 10, 

220, genealogy of, Iv. , 23 ; Hall of 

(Craibh Derg), xlii., 36 and »., 38, 

57 and M. , 84, 89, 245, 296 (and see 

Kury, Clan). 
Re-incarnation, doctrine of, xxii., 

xxiii., Ivi., lix. 
Reochaid, son of Fatheman,'i99, 212, 

213. 
Rhys, Prof., Ivii. and »., 11 »., 274. 
Romeo and Juliet, compared, xlvii. 
Ross ruadh, genealogy of, Iv. 
Rossnaree (ros-na-righ). Battle of, 

216 If. , 236, 237 If., 252. 
Ruad, king of the Fomori, 81. 
Rury, Clan {Clauna Hudraigke), 184. 
Wave of. 42 and n. (and sec 

above. Red Branch). 

Samhain (i.e. Oct. 31st). Ixiv., 171 and 
«., 203. 207. 



INDEX 



3>S 



Satire, 87, 908. 

Satirists auKl lampooners, 318, 356. 
Scall-crows, 105 «i., 317. 360 n. 
'Scandinavia, 'iCennings* introdnoed 

from, xix. ; influence of, xxxiiL, 69 

H. ; Add. Note, p. 390. 
Scathach, xviii., 7I-73, 75-80, 186, 188, 

196, 383 and H. 
Seel, son of Bamene, 59. 
Scennmenn, ford of, 68, 83. 84. 
Scotland (WMa). CnchuHin's journey 

across, xviii., 70-73; Naisi in, 35, 

37, 30. 
'Second battle of Movtura' {CaiA 

Muige Tuired) quoted, IviiL 
Sencha, 15, 18, 19 and m., 35, 66, 314, 

330.' 

Senchus m6r, 56. 

Shields, of Conachar, 41, 43, 331 ; 
• oxvat ' or ' testudo * of, 179 ; ' edge- 
feat ' with, 183 ; missive, 189, 304- 
305 ; bossed, 193. 193 and n. 

* Sick -bed of CuchuUin' (Serglige 

ConchulainmY quoted, 15 m., 33a 
5^A<r.folk. 323 n. 
•Siege of Howth* {Forbais Eiair), 

tale of. 86-94 ; barbarism of, xxv. , 

xlii. ; chivalry in, xliv. 
Sii^erson. Dr., quoted, 31, 197-198 n. 

* Sir Gawaine and the Green Knight,' 

quoted, xxviii. and n, 
Slanc [Sleamain)^ Co. West Meath, 

no, 206 and m., 307, 309, sii, ais. 
Slievefuad {Sliabh Ftiad), 15, 34, 136. 

145. iS». >5a. 255 ; Gray's Linn m, 
358, 35^ ; Ard Achad of, 369. 

SlievrguTlion (SUabh Callainn), 157, 
163. 

Slievemourne, 147. 

Snow, falls of, Ixv., Ixvi., 130 and »., 

159- 
Sohrab and Rustem, story of, xxxi., 

xxxii. 
Spears, Conachar's, 41 ; the • Vrnom- 

ous.' 150 ; Conall cernach's ' the Cul- 

ghlas.' 43 ; eae bulga, 80, 123, 167, 

192, 194-196, 285; cAalgai^ 89 and 

n., 230flnd n. 
Spenser's Faerit Quetne^ quoted, liv. 
View of the State of Ireland, 45 

«. 
Spheres of Gold, 278; Add. Note, 

p. 297. 
Squirrel. Meave's pet, 157. 
Stags, 153, 156. 



Stokes, Dr. WhitW, aa, 86, 95a, a74. 
Strangford Loch {fimanV 8a. 
Sualtach or Sualtam, father of Cu- 

chullin, IvL, 137; warns Ulster, 

138. 303-305 ! violent death of, 805. 
Sun-hero, lx.-lxviii., Ixxvt 
Swans, wild, 153. 
Swords, 191 ; Concbobar*s, 41 ; Fergus 

mac R6ich*s, 11, 181, aao-aai ; 

Manannan mac Lir*s, 44 ; Cuchul- 

lin's, 333, 333 and «i. 



Tdin hd Aingen, zoa, 107 and «i. 

Tdin M Cmaiigme, Epic of, xxiii., 
no, and Add. Note, p. 993, quoted, 
xliii., M. ; analysis 01, 111-937, and 
Appen. II., pp. 391-995; divisions 
of, 1 10 ; barbaric tone of, xliii. ; 
humour of, xlv., xlvi. ; causes of, 
106. 114-119; three great carnages 
of. 177 ; final battle of, 319 ; intro- 
ductory tales to, xxv. , 103, 107. 

Tales, sketches of, xviii. , xix. ; style 
of, XX., XXXV. ; 'prime stories,* 
xxxix. : purity of, xl. ; chivalry in, 
xliii.. 86. 

Tarn ( Temhair), xvi., xxxi., Iviii., 94, 
1^8; men of, 311, 217. 931, 334, 
300, 261, 27c; banqueting-hall 01, 
57 n. ; Add. Note, p. 389. 

Tel town {Tailtti), 148, 302. 

Terrible, judgment of, xxvi. 

Tighernach tetbannaek, 331. 

Timpan. 35. 58. 

' Tra^cal Death of King Conachar* 
(Aided ConeMobair), tale of, 365- 
373. 

of Cuchullin* {Aided 

Concnlainn), tnle of, 951-363; 
chivalry in. xliv. and note. 

of the sons of Usnach * 



{Aided Chloinne Uisnig^, tale of, 
22-53; quoted, XXX., xlvii. and n. ; 
tone of, xxv. ; copies existing, xxxv. 
fate of the Children of Tuir- 



eann (Aided CMloinite Tuirend), 
quoted, Ivii., 22. 

of the Children of Lir. 



{Aided Chloinne Lir), quoted, 15 w. , 

33. 
Trees springing from graves, xxix.* 

xxxi.. 53. 94. 
Tr^ndorii, 39. 
Triscathal, a 16. 



3i6 



THE CUCHULLIN SAGA 



Tristan and Iseult, xxx. 

Tuatha di Dananrtt \jo n.^ 171, 198 ; 

cycle of xxxiii. ; re-incamalion of, 

xxiii., Uv., Iv., Ivii., Ixxii. 



Uachtar fine. 93. 

Uathach. 76. 186. 188. 

Uisnech, Hill of. Ivii. 

Uladh (lat Ulidia). 20 ir. 

Ulsler, Gap of {bcruas Ulad), 158. 

Usnach, Tragical Death of the sons 

of, aa-53. 
genealogy of, Iv. 



Vat, Conachar's, the iem-gual, 58 

and n.\ Cuchullin's, 153 and m., 

154 ; Dechiire's, 246. 
'Vision of MacConglinne,' 56. 
Voyage of Bran ^ quoted, xvi., xxiii., 

a, 14. 
' of Maelduin ' {/mmram Mae/- 

duifi), xvi. XX. 
Vulcan, a36i 



Washer of the Ford. 247 and m. 

Waves, three chief, of Erin, 4a and 
»., 221. 

Weston, Miss J. L., xxviii. m. 

White-horned Bull {FinHdeMMock), 
lxxi.-lxxiii., 115; final battle with 
the Donn, Ixxii., 224-22^, 

Windisch, Dr. Ernst, xlvii., 96, loa. 

Wizards. See Druids. 

Womanhood. Gaelic types of, xlvi.-l. 

'Wooing of Emer' {TocJkmart 
£mer^, quoted, xviii., xxxii., xlvii., 
xlviiL, lii., Ivi., Ixi. ; copies exist- 
ing, xxxv. ; tale of, 57-8^ ; men- 
tioned in Senchus mAr and Vision 
of MacConglinne, 56. 

Wulfkin the Sixon, 73. 

Yama, Ixxiv. 

Yelhw Book 0/ Lecan, preface (Quoted, 
xxxvi. , xllii. ; tales in, xxxviii. 

ZiMMER, Prof. H., quoted, xxxiii., 
110. 172. 



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Please handle with care. 

Thank you for helping to preserve 
library collections at Harvard. 



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